Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
Maryland’s new head football coach DJ Durkin met with aspiring journalists to talk sports and football Tuesday afternoon inside of Eaton Theater at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Much of the offseason hype surrounding the football program has to do with the handful of verbal commitments from class of 2017 recruits, including five-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh. Maryland currently holds a top-20 recruiting class for 2017, and although there is a lot of potential for the future of Maryland football, Durkin has already made his presence felt in preparation for next season.
Durkin stressed the importance becoming a father-like figure to his players, someone who prioritizes education and life lessons aside from football. He often says that if his son was in the program, he would want to know his son was taken care of outside of football.
“There’s so much of a greater responsibility as a coach than just us preparing for football,” Durkin said. “You got to win games and you’ll keep the job, but I think our responsibility goes far greater than that.”
The coaching staff consistently emphasizes the program’s mission statement “to bring in quality student athletes that will graduate with meaningful degrees, be prepared for life after football and compete for championships on the field.” The team also has a set of core values they want player to follow, which include: honesty, accountability, attitude and respect.
“There’s more to life than just football,” Durkin said.
Durkin specifically mentioned many aspects of the University of Maryland that can help the future of Maryland football, including its great academics, its unique relationship with Under Armour, its proximity to Baltimore and Washington D.C., the building of the new Cole Fieldhouse and simply being a part of the Big Ten Conference.
“I’ve wanted to be head coach for a long time,” Durkin said. “It’s a great time to be a part of this institution.”
One of the hardest challenges of entering a program as a new head coach is coaching players that you didn’t recruit, but Durkin has been up to the challenge since his arrival.
“Relationships are built through time and adversity,” Durkin said. “It’s an ongoing process.”
He also explained that he needs to create adversity in order to get his players to truly want to play for one another, not just for themselves. Players need to learn to act as a team in uncomfortable situations.
One of the recurring themes of Durkin’s discussion was his commitment to creating strong relationships between his coaching staff, the players and recruits.
“It’s not about being a friend. It’s about building a trusting relationship,” Durkin said.
When hiring a new coaching staff in the offseason, Durkin made it a priority to hire quality people to represent the program.
“I really wanted to hire guys that were quality people,” Durkin said. “When you have quality people in your organization, you’re going to do quality things.”
Creating special relationships with recruits is an important part of the new staff’s responsibilities. Because of the changes in recruiting in the past five years, Durkin explained how he’s had to adapt.
“We individualize recruiting,” Durkin said. “That’s the way recruiting has become.”
Durkin and his staff have made sure to make each recruit’s visit special to them. During a visit, the coaching staff focuses on the recruit’s intended major and whom they’ve brought with them.
Despite coming off of a 3-9 season, Durkin is preparing this team to win. He hasn’t had to coach in a game to show that he’s ready to change the culture of Maryland football.
“I know it’s not going to all be perfect and I’m going to push for perfection all the time knowing we’re not really going to reach it, but [I want to see] that type of energy and enthusiasm for what we’re doing, a different enjoyment for what we’re doing, and that they’re playing for one another,” Durkin said.
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