- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

After every Maryland football season from 1997 to 2000, Terrapins senior linebacker Aaron Thompson would go home to Baltimore for winter break and catch up with his friends. For four years Thompson redshirted in 1997 he talked up the Terps, who finished with a losing record each year.
"That's all right, we're going [to a bowl] next year, we're going next year," Thompson would tell them.
Last winter, Thompson was eating pizza with friends when one said bluntly that the 2001 Terps wouldn't make a bowl game. Sometime after Maryland won its sixth game to qualify for a bowl on its way to a 10-1 season, Thompson reminded his friend of that lack of faith.
"He said, 'I knew y'all were going to do it all along,'" Thompson said.
In the weeks following their victory over N.C. State, which clinched the ACC title outright and a place in a BCS bowl, Maryland players could afford to sit back and wait to see whom they would play in a bowl on or after New Year's Day. With time off from Nov.17 until practice started again Monday, they also caught up with friends and family who had endured the bowl-less seasons along with them.
Some family and friends stood by the Terps the whole way; others, like in Thompson's case, had expressed doubt that the team would become successful.
At home in the upstate New York town of Horseheads, senior Guilian Gary listened to friends' stories of where they were when he snared the game-winning touchdown pass from Shaun Hill against N.C. State. People told him it was a "$12 million catch," representing the approximate Orange Bowl payout. Gary said it felt good to receive the congratulations, and it never got old.
"It was a completely different feeling with everybody congratulating you. … I could sit there and tell that story or explain how happy I am, because I've been on the other side saying, 'Next year,' so many times," Gary said. "Now it feels good, and I'll tell it to anybody."
Senior center Melvin Fowler had not been home to Wheatly Heights, N.Y., on Long Island, since before summer practice started. He and high school friends would always talk football when they got together, but after Maryland's amazing run, Fowler got some more attention, especially from former high school teammates still playing collegiately.
"They're living vicariously through me," Fowler said with a smile. "It's a great feeling. I definitely don't want to let them down, not for a second."
Sophomore tailback Bruce Perry and junior linebacker E.J. Henderson really got to see the fruits of Maryland's success in Orlando, Fla., where they were finalists for two of college football's top individual awards Perry for the Doak Walker Award and Henderson for the Butkus Award. Although neither came home with the prize, they basked in the exposure they helped create this season.
"Basically what we said to each other was, 'We want this to be an every-year thing. We want to have somebody [at the awards] every year,'" Perry said. "And that's just going to help our program grow more."
And there are phone calls offering congratulations. And e-mails. And people asking about tickets. And people players don't even know coming up to them to wish them well. These are all things that, because Maryland hadn't reached a bowl in 10 seasons, players hadn't had to deal with.
"It's added pressure, pressure that we've never had to deal with before," said Thompson, who is in the process of making sure his parents, some family and his girlfriend get to Miami for the game. "But it's good stress."

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