Titus Till found himself in many places during his life.
Alaska. Japan. Italy. Eastern Washington (the state, not the city).
Now he's on the spot in Maryland's secondary as one of five freshmen on defense who were on the field at the end of Saturday's 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech.
Till likely will make his third consecutive start in place of injured safety Matt Robinson when the Terrapins (2-3, 1-1 ACC) face No. 8 Clemson (6-0, 3-0) at Byrd Stadium. His early production is promising: eleven tackles against Towson, five more against Georgia Tech.
It's precisely the sort of performance Maryland hoped for when Till committed early in 2009 while he still was a junior at Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, even if he didn't contend for playing time immediately upon arriving in College Park.
"When I was recruited, I was told I would have a chance to play," Till said. "When I got here, I realized I wasn't mentally nor physically prepared so I decided to redshirt. That redshirt year, I felt I developed a lot more skills as far as getting stronger and faster and learning the game better as far as college ball goes."
It was only a matter of time for both the on- and off-field parts of Till's game to develop. He was considered one of the top recruits in Maryland's 2010 class, a group that stuck with the Terps despite a 2-10 record the previous fall, and at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds offers the necessary size for a safety.
The mental facet was just as certain to arrive for the worldly Till, who was born in Alaska and acquired an appreciation of both soccer and Venice ("The most beautiful place in the world," Till said) while spending five years in Italy while his father (an Air Force officer) was stationed at Aviano Air Base. Later, he played saxophone in his church and with his high school jazz band.
"It makes him a better person," said DaLawn Parrish, Till's coach at Wise. "He's well-rounded, and he has an idea what's going on outside the United States. That experience is going to make an outstanding young man."
Parrish possesses more than a passing familiarity with the ACC; he played safety at Wake Forest in the late 1990s. It didn't take long for him to realize Till, who picked up football upon moving back to the United States after spending most of his first 10 years abroad, could parlay his talent and smarts into bigger things.
Till won a starting job as a sophomore at Wise, and impressed Parrish with his understanding of the game and an ability to quickly learn from mistakes. Soon, ex-Maryland assistant James Franklin made Till a priority for the Terps, which in turn led to some good-natured joking from the high school coach.
"I always thought he was a Wake Forest man," Parrish, a four-time academic all-ACC pick while playing for the Demon Deacons, said with a laugh. "I always wanted to see him there. He seemed like a Wake Forest man. I'm sure some Maryland people are saying 'What are you talking about?'
Instead, Till is one of several youthful Terps who could play plenty throughout this season. Robinson's season-ending shoulder injury ensured Till can collect extensive experience early in his career, and not far from where he attended high school.
The conditions are less than ideal. The opportunity, though, is valuable.
"It was heartbreaking to me because I've known Matt since high school," Till said. "We were Maryland all-state together and in the Crab Bowl together. I've talked to him for a couple years now. Us both being safeties, he had a face-to-face talk with me to say 'Yeah, you're ready. Just do your thing and go out there and ball.' "
And with that, Till is back on the field, one of many familiar and comfortable places in his already well-traveled life.
Notes: ESPN placed a six-day option on Maryland's Oct. 22 game at Florida State. The network and kickoff time for the game will be announced by Sunday. ... Defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who made a career-high 20 tackles Saturday against Georgia Tech, was named the ACC's defensive lineman of the week. It was his second such honor this season and the third of his career.
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