When the University of Maryland announced DJ Durkin would be reinstated Oct. 30 after spending two months on paid administrative leave, resent and uproar from the public forced university president Wallace Loh to reverse the decision one day later.
But when the Maryland football program revealed Mike Locksley was its new head coach Dec. 4, the response was the polar opposite. It was filled with immense support and excitement from current players, alumni and local high school coaches.
Former Maryland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson knew all along Locksley was the man for the job, especially as the university continues to recover from the tragedy surrounding the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
"From an emotional standpoint, he's a guy who's from this area, he has a lot of ties to this area, a lot of the alumni like me still live in the area," Jackson said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Dec. 5. "To have a familiar face back in town when Maryland was uber-successful, the alumni is very excited right now to have him back at Maryland."
Locksley is a Maryland guy through and through. He was born in Washington, D.C., and played football at Towson. He earned his first assistant coaching job at Towson in 1992. After bouncing around three different schools during the next four years, he became Maryland's running backs coach from 1997-2002. The Terps won 10 games in 2001 and 11 in 2002.
In 2003, he left for two more assistant coaching jobs at Florida and Illinois before a three-year stint as head coach of New Mexico. He returned to College Park, Md., from 2012-2015, and he continued to establish himself as a highly regarded individual locally and the best high school recruiter in the area.
He served as the interim head coach for the Terps when Randy Edsall was fired in 2015, but he lost the head coaching job to Durkin at the end of the season and left for Alabama.
"I think everyone in this area will not let him fail," Jackson said. "He has a ton of friends in this area, a ton of alumni. He's one of those guys everybody respects."
Locksley recruited Jackson, who played for the Terps from 2002-2006. A Florida native, Jackson had the opportunity to play at the state's flagship university but was drawn north to Locksley. They would talk often throughout the process, many times not even about football.
The time Locksley took to invest in players as people established Jackson's respect for him, and that's what led to the duo maintaining a friendship throughout and beyond Jackson's 11-year NFL career.
"I remember throughout that recruiting process, Locks was being honest with me. I think he's a hell of a recruiter, he's honest and he has a way of just relating to players," Jackson said. "Maryland needs somebody like that right now, especially with what happened this past summer with a student-athlete passing away."
Skeptics of the Locksley hire point to his 3-31 career head coaching record and multiple off-the-field issues he had during his time at New Mexico from 2009-2011. Jackson said he and other alumni believe Locksley has matured since then, especially at Alabama for the last three years under head coach Nick Saban.
Locksley recently won the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach. He helped coach the Crimson Tide to a national championship last season, and as the offensive coordinator this year, they're back in the College Football Playoff.
"He's had success under arguably one of the greatest college coaches to ever do it," Jackson said." If he was able to survive a Nick Saban offense and flourish, I think it speaks volumes not what he can do giving the chance to come back to his roots."
Maryland football alumni believe Locksley's previous stint at New Mexico isn't a reflection of what he means to the community and the future of the Terps.
"His win-loss record doesn't jump off the charts in terms of, 'We need this guy,'" Jackson said. "But in terms of being a Maryland guy, that's what Maryland needs."
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