In early December, the University of Maryland announced it was hiring Mike Locksley as its new head football coach.
Locksley, a Washington, D.C., native, is known for his recruiting prowess, especially among local recruits.
The effect his hiring had on those recruits was almost immediate. A little more than a week after Locksley signed a five-year contract in College Park, Md., he reeled in consensus four-star wide receiver Isaiah Hazel from Dr. Henry Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, Md. Hazel committed to Maryland Dec. 12 and signed with the Terps Dec. 19.
Locksley recruited the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Hazel as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, but Hazel had originally committed to West Virginia during the summer. He reconsidered his decision when he heard Locksley was returning to Maryland.
"Honestly, it made a big impact," Hazel said of Locksley's hiring on
Glenn Clark Radio
Dec. 21. "I feel as though Coach Locksley is going to come and change the program."
On Dec. 12, he tweeted "take me home where I belong," a nod to the lyrics of "Country Roads" by John Denver, a staple at Mountaineer games.
Hazel received some criticism from West Virginia fans for his late change of heart, but he said the negative comments only motivate him to be successful at his new school.
"Those fans are gonna be negative all they want," Hazel said. "When they say stuff like that, it's going to motivate me to work harder, to bust my butt every day in the gym, to run my routes faster. It's just a motivation to me. It ain't nothing new."
As for what it is about Locksley that made him stay home and play for the Terps, Hazel pointed to his new coach's personality and work ethic.
"He's a father figure toward you. He's a confident guy, he's a hard worker," Hazel said. "He can't wait just to come and turn the program around and win games. I see the way he was talking to me, he was just excited and I am excited with him."
Locksley will bring a winning pedigree -- learned from Alabama head coach Nick Saban -- to the Terps, Hazel said.
"He learned what it takes to win and how it feels so good to win and I feel as though he's going to … make it a consistent, winning team," he said. "I'm just happy to join it."
Academics also played a role in his decision, Hazel said, because football isn't a long-term career. Once it's over, he has to have a backup plan.
"Maryland has a great academic program and when my football comes to an end I know for a fact I'm going to have an education leaving there," Hazel said, admitting that potentially missing home at West Virginia played a factor in his decision, too.
"I knew I was going to be a little homesick, but ... I was more thinking about life after football," Hazel said. "Of course, my goal is to reach the league, but you've got to know that the league isn't going to be there for us in the long run, so I was thinking about future-wise."
If Hazel hopes to reach the NFL, he chose a program that has pumped out pro-level talent at the receiver position during the last decade. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Pittsburgh Steelers), Torrey Smith (Carolina Panthers), Stefon Diggs (Minnesota Vikings) and most recently DJ Moore (Panthers) have all found success at the next level.
Diggs in particular showed Hazel that Maryland can be a jumping-off point for players to reach the pros.
"He hit the league and he was a low draft pick, but now you see he's a top receiver in the league," Hazel said of Diggs.
Hazel is the No. 4 overall recruit in Maryland and 35th-ranked wide receiver in the country, according to 247Sports. He is the Terps' first four-star commit for 2019. He bumped the Terps' class of 2019 rank up to No. 83, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
He hopes to have an immediate impact on Maryland's offense which is stocked with young receivers -- many of whom are unproven.
"I just want to come there and be a leader," Hazel said. "You come in as a freshman, they look at you like you're a rookie. I feel like I am going to come in there and show the team that I can hang with the big dogs and try my best lead the team to victory."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
To hear more from Hazel, listen to the full interview here: