- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mike Locksley spent last autumn in quite a new way. He watched his 15-year-old son’s football games every week. He took his daughter to school. He embraced the quality family time that eluded him for more than two decades.

It was the upside of his first coaching failure. After two-plus seasons and a 2-26 record, Locksley was fired as New Mexico’s head coach last September.

One thing he knew: He wasn’t done in his profession.

“It wasn’t something I thought about,” Locksley said. “It was just the opportunities were there. I knew I was too young to say I’m done coaching. For me, the opportunities were there. I knew wasn’t done coaching. It wasn’t a matter of if but when and where.”

The now-42-year-old needed to wait less than three months before finding a landing spot. That it happened at Maryland, the de facto launching pad for his rapid rise more than a decade ago, made things even better.

Maryland’s 2-10 record last season was hardly a deterrent.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Locksley said. “My family and myself are just ecstatic to be able to come and work with a great group of assistants, great players and then work for a guy like Randy [Edsall].”

Now the Terrapins’ offensive coordinator, Locksley is part of Maryland’s staff makeover after Edsall’s first season that also included the hiring of Brian Stewart as the Terps’ defensive coordinator.

Locksley’s hire stirred more intrigue on several levels. He was former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen’s recruiting coordinator a decade ago during back-to-back 10-win seasons before moving to Florida to work for Ron Zook. When Zook was fired and subsequently took the Illinois job, he brought Locksley as his offensive coordinator. Three years later, the Illini were in the Rose Bowl.

It was a career without a glaring setback until his dismissal at New Mexico four games into last season.

“Once you get over the shock of it, being fired, and for me my first time being fired, my D.C. upbringing kicks in and guess what?” Locksley said. “You pull yourself up by your bootstrings.”

Throughout the fall, he was in touch with former colleagues such as Zook, Larry Fedora (now North Carolina’s head coach), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) to bounce ideas around.

In retrospect, Locksley said the decision to take the New Mexico job was one he made almost entirely on his own. This time, his wife and children had more input and were eager to return to this area.

So was Locksley, whose first Maryland offense will feature freshman Perry Hills at quarterback after junior C.J. Brown was lost for the season with a right knee injury last week.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s where he wants to be,” said Zook, now an analyst with CBS Sports Network. “That’s a lot of being happy. … This situation, with the quarterback, it sounds like they have a tough row to hoe. Most jobs have a tough row to hoe. But I think probably the things that have happened are going to help him.”

Locksley found himself in unwanted headlines beyond the losses the past three years, things he euphemistically refers to as “stuff.” There was a sexual harassment lawsuit that was dropped, an altercation with an assistant that led to a one-game suspension and arrest on suspicion of DWI by a friend of one of his son’s while driving a car registered to a member of the Locksley family. New Mexico’s investigation found the son’s friend was not a recruit.

Locksley said he’s learned to not avoid reading what’s written about him, but he clearly was irked at how some of those incidents continue to be portrayed.

“When certain things are attributed to you, it’s one thing to say things that are true, which I have no problem with,” Locksley said. “When things are written that are not true, obviously it bothers me. As I said before, if any of those things that were attributed to me that I’d done during my tenure at New Mexico were true, then I could’ve been fired for cause.”

It also would have made him a far dicier hire for Maryland. Instead, Locksley signed a four-year deal worth $500,000 annually and set to work installing his multifaceted offense and doing what he’s best known for: building relationships.

That meant giving Maryland a boost in recruiting, where it landed local tailbacks Wes Brown and Albert Reid and consensus top-10 recruit Stefon Diggs with Locksley’s help.

“He connects as well as anybody,” wide receiver Kerry Boykins said. “We have a good relationship with him. We can stop by his office and just ‘Hey’ and just kind of kick it with him. Then out on the field, he coaches us up pretty good. He always seems real calm, other than when we mess up and he has to get on us a little bit. But that’s what a coach is supposed to do.”

It is part of an ideal fit. Both the Terps and Locksley were at respective low tides last fall. If things are to improve for either, they’ll do it together in the coming years.

“I’m happy he’s there,” Zook said. “There’s no question he’s going to be a plus for the University of Maryland. He was an integral part of my staff, and I’m sure Randy feels the same way.”