A football season is an exercise in repetition and routine, a series of tasks completed over and over in the hope they are done almost precisely the same each time.
No one in Maryland's program fulfills this basic desire of coaches quite like Edwin Williams.
He jogs through the gates to the Terrapins' practice facility, almost always grinning. He bolts from drill to drill, the other offensive linemen trying to keep pace. And he typically provides the steadiest performance for a sometimes erratic team.
"The guy's a monster. He has energy like a little kid," linebacker Moise Fokou said. "Whenever we're out there in practice, he's the first one to run up to the line. He gets enthusiastic about everything."
The No. 22 Terps (7-3, 4-2 ACC) have arrived at the final two games of the regular-season schedule with a chance to capture a conference title. Maryland's swings from crisp to clunker and back again were a defining trait early in the season, making it easy to ignore the few things that remained the same.
That's what made Williams so valuable. The center has started a team-best 36 straight games. And the senior's reliability provided an anchor through the toughest times.
So too did his relentlessly upbeat approach. Along the way, he joked about nearly everything, from the unpredictability of the ACC to a friendly wager on a nationally televised high school game - the DeMatha grad was forced to wear a Good Counsel jersey after the Stags lost - to the ample supply of Worcestershire sauce in the team dining hall despite only the occasional steak dinner.
"I've always had a hyper spirit," said Williams, the ACC's offensive lineman of the week after helping the Terps roll up 195 rushing yards Saturday against North Carolina. "People say, 'You're always happy all the time; what's up with that?' People never said that to me until I came to college."
But that's what is often remembered about him. Nearly the only evidence of a mean streak came in the spring of 2006, when he needed finger surgery after getting into a fight with defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre during practice.
Navarre admitted there were a few other competitive moments between the two, but also acknowledged how Williams' attitude helps - first by invigorating his fellow offensive linemen, then with teammates on the other side of the ball.
"He's a very exciting guy," Navarre said. "Some guys might take it the wrong way, but he's a very energetic guy. At 330 pounds, that's a lot of excitement."
It's never more evident than when Maryland finishes its stretching drills at the start of practice and segues into extra-point work. Williams sprints downfield, leaving defensive players in his wake.
"I just want to be first," he said. "Trust me, that's not just [extra-point drills]. That's after meetings. I just want to be the first to get food. I just like to be the first to get everything. I don't know why."
He would like to be among the first to celebrate the Terps collecting an Atlantic Division title - a feat that remains possible with a victory Saturday against Florida State (7-3, 4-3) and a Boston College loss at Wake Forest. If they do, Williams' attitude would merit plenty of credit.
"I know it helps me out a lot," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I'm going to miss when we break the huddle after warm-ups every day and No. 60 sprints down to the other end of the field and is ready to go - and he does it every single day.
"He's a great kid to have around."
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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