By: Eric Myers
Michael Locksley stood behind a lectern Thursday for his introductory press conference at Cole Field House, a place where Locksley said he and his best friend used to spend a lot of time.
Cole Field House has changed quite a bit from those days, as it now houses the indoor practice facility for Maryland football, the team that Locksley will now oversee as the program’s 37th head coach.
“Boy, it sure feels good to be home,” Locksley said. “I can’t tell you guys enough how this is a dream come true for me to be the leader of the Maryland Terrapin football family.”
The Washington D.C. native returns to College Park, a place where he has spent a combined 10 years of his coaching career serving as a running backs coach, offensive coordinator and as the interim head coach after Randy Edsall was fired in 2015.
Cole Field House is not the only element that’s changed about the Maryland football program. Locksley’s return comes after one of the most difficult seasons in the history of the program with Jordan McNair’s death on June 13 and the fallout that followed, including DJ Durkin’s firing.
“There was nothing that could stop me from wanting to take this job, other than confirming that all the pieces were in place for this program and this family to be successful,” Locksley said. “After meeting with Dr. [Wallace] Loh, Damon [Evans], meeting with the search committee, I really felt comfortable that everyone was pulling in the right direction, pulling together to see this thing through the tough times.”
Locksley acknowledged McNair’s father, Marty McNair, who was in attendance during Thursday’s press conference, and thanked the elder McNair, whom he called a good friend, for being in attendance.
The relationship between Locksley and the McNair family dates back to the McDonogh School, where both Jordan McNair and Locksley’s daughter, Kori, were student athletes in the same graduating class. During his time as the offensive coordinator at Maryland, Locksley also began the recruiting efforts to bring McNair to Maryland.
That relationship has grown further between the Locksley family and the McNair family in the wake of two tragedies that saw both families lose a son. Locksley’s son, Meiko, was shot and killed in Columbia, Maryland, in September 2017.
“We have a common bond,” Locksley said. “When you lose a child, the circle of life isn’t built for parents to bury kids. So I’ve been a sounding board for Marty, he’s been an ear for me. Our relationship has continued to grow.”
This opportunity will be Locksley’s second official head coaching position in his coaching tenure. His first head coaching job was at New Mexico, where he accumulated a 2-26 record in three seasons at the helm. During his time at New Mexico, off-the-field concerns also arose. Even so, Athletic Director Damon Evans believes that Locksley has grown since that time and is ready for this opportunity.
“Obviously Mike and I did have a extended conversation about [his time at New Mexico],” Evans said. “We talked about his past. He’s grown as an individual, I saw that. He indicated what he had learned. And you could just see him, where he was then, which was 8 to 10 years ago, to where he is now, he’s had a lot of life lessons.”
A part of Locksley’s development as a coach and a person came under the tutelage of Nick Saban at Alabama, where Locksley spent three years as an offensive assistant, including this season as the offensive coordinator.
“The number one thing, it starts with consistency. If you look at the Alabama football program, it has consistency written all over it,” Locksley said. “The biggest thing that I’ve learned from being under coach Saban is focus on the process, not the results.”
The process for Locksley in the coming weeks becomes a bit more complicated as he will be juggling his responsibilities in getting underway at Maryland, in terms of staffing and recruiting, with his responsibilities at Alabama in preparation for the College Football Playoffs.
Locksley said he has a schedule in place to accomplish his responsibilities in both positions with the help of Saban, who’s accustomed to his assistant coaches accepting other positions while finishing their post on Alabama’s staff.
Over the next week, Locksley plans to meet with members of the current coaching staff individually to determine their future at Maryland. He will also meet with players individually to introduce himself or get reacquainted with players he’s recruited in the past. He plans to return to Alabama for practice on Dec. 14, as the team prepares for their semifinal tilt against Oklahoma.
“The way it’s worked is I’ll work on Oklahoma during the day and when we practice. And at night, I’ll go in my office and put my Terp hat on and start recruiting for the Terps and getting the Terps ready for our season,” Locksley said.
Locksley has been lauded for his recruiting acumen, which includes bringing former Maryland stars such as Stefon Diggs, Vernon Davis and Lamont Jordan to the school. That element of Locksley’s pedigree was considered, but Evans said “he is just as talented as a coach” as he is as a recruiter.
When Locksley is recruiting, his priority will be bringing the top players from the District, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) to College Park, a point that he emphasized Thursday.
“I know this: If we keep the gates around the DMV and we get the top players in this area to buy into staying here at home and building this thing from the ground up together, there’s nowhere in the country we can’t go and compete with the best,” Locksley said.