There are certain things Alex Wujciak does well.
He can tackle. He can play instinctually. And he certainly can play hard, even when he’s nicked up.
Speed over long distances, though, is definitely not the junior linebacker’s greatest strength.
So it was curious to see Wujciak gallop 70 yards after intercepting Russell Wilson in Saturday’s loss at N.C. State to score Maryland’s first defensive touchdown since Oct. 14, 2006.
“I didn’t think I was going to run out of steam and get caught, but I was definitely gassed toward the end of the run,” Wujciak said. “I tried to go as fast as I could for those first 30 or 40 yards to hopefully break away from everyone and then I could slow down. You know, 70 yards never seemed so far before. When you get the ball in your hands, it’s a little bit different.”
Still, he made it. It wasn’t easy. Wideout Torrey Smith joked that after about 25 yards, it looked like someone was pulling on Wujciak’s jersey. And by the time he made it back to the sideline, Wujciak was especially worn out.
“He needed some oxygen,” center Phil Costa said. “He was breathing pretty heavy. I went to congratulate him and he seemed a little bit out of it.”
Or more out of it than normal, given Wujciak’s colorful personality?
“Yeah, there you go,” Costa said. “That’s a good way to put it.”
But all good things come with some sort of price, and it didn’t take long for Costa to realize that life with Wujciak wouldn’t be quite the same.
The two are close friends, and share a suite with punter Travis Baltz. Clearly, everyone on the sideline was excited about the Terps ending the defensive scoring drought and happy Wujciak could score a touchdown.
But another consequence soon surfaced.
“Baltz comes up to me and it’s pretty funny because he goes ‘We’re never going to hear the end of this,’” Costa said. “We play NCAA Football together all the time, Wuj, Baltz and I, and whenever we’re playing he always say ‘I’m going to take one to the house like that.’ He finally did, and now he’s got some bragging rights.”
Not only that, but Wujciak now owns the longest defensive return for a touchdown in the nine-year tenure of coach Ralph Friedgen. Saturday’s pick-six was the longest return since Randall Jones had a 90-yard touchdown off an interception in a 2000 defeat of Wake Forest.
Jones was a one-time quarterback playing safety. Wujciak, though, is a 255-pound linebacker fully aware of what his skillset usually entails.
“I wasn’t recruited to run 70 yards,” Wujciak said. “Forty yards may be a little too much as it is already. It was definitely not why I was brought here. Just the chance to make a play doesn’t come around all the time, so I tried to capitalize.”
That’s something Wujciak usually does very well.