More than a third of the players who appeared for Maryland on Saturday made their college debut.
Perhaps none was quite so pleased it finally came as Nigel King.
The redshirt freshman spent last fall in a sort of eligibility purgatory because of issues with the NCAA.
There was no game. No practice. No meetings. No weight-lifting sessions with teammates.
If it was related to the team in any way, chances were King could have nothing to do with it.
“I wasn’t really around the team as much,” King said. “I had to live on my own. It was very hard. I just felt like —- nothing against regular students, but I just felt like a student. I was doing everything on my own.”
King arrived at Maryland a semester early after wrapping up his high school career at Oak Ridge Military Academy in Raleigh, N.C. But the eligibility issue surfaced quickly, and King was held out for much of spring practice in 2011.
Nonetheless, he played in the spring game and was optimistic he would be part of the team last season. Then came a call two days before camp opened about his ineligibility.
“I was just getting ready to come back,” King said. “I had to stay at home until the day before school started. it’s probably the toughest thing I ever had to do, because I never really sat out of football for a whole year in high school or even when I was little.”
He remained in touch with teammates away from football and shared an apartment with a few. He was still on scholarship, taking a de facto redshirt season.
Still, it was a lost year with regard to football. In that sense, the opportunity to participate in Saturday’s 7-6 victory over William & Mary —- mostly on the kickoff return and punt return units —- was something to cherish.
“I felt like I got pushed back even though I came early,” King said. “Everything happens for a reason, so I really can’t think back on it. I’m just glad I’m able to play now.”
—- Patrick Stevens