By: Eddie Hobbs
Byron Cowart was once the highest-rated recruit in the country. The 6-foot-4 Seffner, Florida, native committed to Auburn in 2015 after making plenty of visits around the nation, with College Park being one of them. Cowart’s decision to transfer to Maryland was in part because he was looking for a school that would give him a chance to see the field.
“Whoever was going to give me the opportunity to actually play and show that I can play football,” Cowart said when asked why he chose Maryland over other schools. “They was one of the schools that I was looking at coming out of high school. I kind of knew the area, and I just wanted to come back and see if I would like it again.”
Cowart’s stats at Auburn weren’t eye opening, and it could be due to the fact that he was used so little in his time in the program. As a freshman, Cowart was used in just 21.5 percent of Auburn’s defensive plays, as he was mainly used in obvious passing situations.
In 2016, Cowart missed the final three games of the season against Alabama A&M, Alabama, and the Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma after he had his appendix removed. He had only played in four games throughout that entire season.
And three games into what turned out to be his final season at Auburn, Cowart decided to leave the the program and search for another place to call home. Overall, Cowart racked up just 15 total tackles and one forced fumble as a Tiger.
Cowart said in an interview with AL.com that he was fine with his decision to leave Auburn, citing that the most important thing was his mother’s health.
“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart said to AL.com. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back home to her. Plus, I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”
The pressure of being a No. 1 recruit is daunting, and Cowart said that the Auburn’s coach thought that being so highly recruited out of high school was a lot of pressure for a young man.
Coming into Auburn, Cowart said how many thought that he had a high football IQ coming out of high school, but he was still learning the game and everything it had to offer.
“People thought I’ve been playing football for all my life,” said Cowart, who noted he had only been playing organized football since high school. “They thought my IQ was so high, but the game is now starting to slow down to me.”
Since leaving Auburn, Cowart has become a dominant presence for the Terps, and interim head coach Matt Canada has taken notice of the strides he has taken since transferring to Maryland.
“He was a captain last week for us for the first time,” Canada said. “He is trying to lead, and obviously as you come in to a new program there’s a little bit of a transitional period there… No matter how talented you are, you still have to earn everybody’s respect. And I think he’s done a great job of that.”
In just six games as a Terp, Cowart has 20 tackles, already surpassing his three-year total at Auburn, and came off a game against Rutgers where he got the first collegiate interception.
Just one play after a Maryland offensive turnover, Rutgers’ quarterback Artur Sitkowski sat in the pocket and attempted a pass to his running back. Antoine Brooks Jr. rose in the air to knock the ball down, and Cowart dove to catch the ball. Cowart handed the ball to the referee while being mauled by teammates.
“As a defense, we love to be out there. We go out there and I’m like, ‘Man, let’s try and stop these boys from scoring.’ And so, we go out there Antonie tipped it and I just see it, and it’s crazy, the ball and everything just slowed down,” Cowart said.
That kind of play speaks to the way Cowart has become a leader at Maryland, and how he pumped up the Maryland defense after the offense gave up a fumble.
Canada loves that he is producing on the field, but also appreciates the steps he has taken to be a great teammate.
“For me, more than the playing, is just the way he has bought into making the best teammate he can be, helping us be the best football team we can be. I really really enjoy him. I am happy for him, he’s having success,” Canada said.