The idea popped up about a week before camp started. Around the same time, Maryland’s Adrian Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield, linebackers so close they often call each other “Big Brother” and “Little Brother,” picked up on the Twitter phenomenon.
They swap run-of-the-mill comments, motivational messages and, naturally, some smack talk. And not unlike their professional counterparts, they have adapted to the latest Internet social networking craze to reflect their personalities to the public - 140 characters or fewer at a time.
“We use it as [if we’re] fake celebrities,” Hartsfield said. “We’re not really [Chad] Ochocinco or Shawne Merriman. We just do it just because it’s something fun to do.”
Moten (@motenlive) and Hartsfield (@Carolinaboy59) are among the handful of Terrapins dabbling in Twitter. So, too, are coach Ralph Friedgen (@CoachFridge) and a couple of assistants.
Nearly all have limited followings - for now, anyway. Which means that unlike some other facets of their life, players are very much like normal college students in their Twitter usage.
“Out of the 38 people on there, probably five of them are porn spammers,” nose tackle A.J. Francis (@JackDiamond96) said of his online followers. “On a day-to-day basis, if I update my Twitter, seven or eight people will see it. Whatever I say, it’s not going to affect anything with those seven or eight people.”
Francis has other uses for the medium, anyway. He’s released several mix tapes under the name Jack Diamond - in homage to the Prohibition-era bootlegger, not a D.C.-area radio personality - and views Twitter as another way to market his alter ego.
Yet it’s also a way to get news. Earlier this month, Francis discovered Jay-Z’s latest album was released three days early through a tweet (a post on the Twitter site) from Shaquille O’Neal; unsurprisingly, the music aficionado rushed to a store to buy it.
Such personality traits aren’t usually on display on Saturdays, when touchdowns and tackles are noticed more than personal likes and dislikes.
“It is a way to let people know we do things other than play football,” Francis said.
But it also opens the door for additional scrutiny - something Friedgen warned his team about during camp. Maryland provides players some squeaky-clean outlets to demonstrate who they are beyond a name and a number, such as the “Terrapins Rising” reality show each summer. Friedgen, though, recalled a conversation he had in the last few years after researching his players’ online lives.
“I went on there and got some pictures and said, ‘Want me to show these to your mother?’ ” Friedgen said of visits to Facebook. “I said, ‘Yeah, employers look at this.’ You need to be smart.”
Such warnings become more valuable in the wake of this week’s furor over Washington Redskins linebacker Robert Henson’s tweets criticizing fans for booing the team in Sunday’s 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams at FedEx Field.
In a college venue, where a coach flexes far greater control, the enmity of fans isn’t the biggest reason to maintain caution in posting thoughts.
“I don’t want to get myself in trouble,” Moten said. “Coach Friedgen’s going to be on my back for it. And I’m a leader of this team. With me being a captain, I don’t want the younger guys saying, ‘Moten’s doing it, so I can get on there and do it, too.’ You have to be careful of what you say and do on that thing.”