- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

A musical keyboard lay beneath Maryland linebacker Wesley Jefferson’s bed for 11 years before he finally tried it. Now he plays classical music by ear. Obviously, the highly touted prep star’s instincts aren’t limited to the football field.

“One day I started messing around with it, and I became good at it in a short period of time,” Jefferson said. “My dream is to have one shot to play in front of everybody.”

For now, Jefferson will settle for playing football before a Byrd Stadium sellout crowd Saturday when the No.23 Terrapins (3-1, 1-0 ACC) will face Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2). The redshirt freshman, who didn’t play last year, is beginning to show why he was coach Ralph Friedgen’s biggest recruit. The former Gwynn Park High School standout’s 18 tackles (including 12 against Temple) rank sixth among the Terps even though he is a reserve.

The Terps’ depth at linebacker has delayed Jefferson’s impact, but he steadily has made his presence known. One of the team’s harder hitters, Jefferson is often around the ball even though he still is learning the defensive system.

“He’s not as fast as you’d like to be, but he’s instinctive,” Friedgen said, “I expect him to play a lot.”

Friedgen never expected Jefferson to play last season even though he was one of the nation’s top-rated prep linebackers. He even slipped behind fellow freshman Tim Cesa, but Friedgen wasn’t surprised because Cesa gained more experience playing longer prep seasons in Georgia that included spring football.

“Kids in this area don’t grow as much the first year because they had a limited amount of football,” Friedgen said. “Cesa had four years of spring practice and 14-game seasons. That guy is going to be further along. As time goes on, that will even out. A lot of times, a kid from Georgia or Florida will top out [early] and won’t get a whole lot better. Kids from here, their increase is higher, but you won’t see it the first year. Wesley’s like in calculus after finishing general math.”

Jefferson was never dejected over spending a season with the scout team despite the lofty buzz that accompanied his arrival in College Park.

“It’s like high school, where I had to start at the bottom,” he said. “I’ll gradually work my way up and make plays and open people’s eyes that I can play. My turn may be now or later on, but I have to be ready. I still have a lot of hard work left. I’m not done.”

Jefferson impressed teammates during summer camp with his evening piano recitals. A viral outbreak at the football dorm sent the Terps to a nearby hotel for several weeks, and Jefferson played the piano in the lobby between meetings.

Mozart is Jefferson’s favorite, though he does popular songs upon request. He even wears gloves during football workouts to protect his fingers.

“Classical is so soothing, especially after a stressful day,” he said. “I play some R&B; tunes, but classical is better. Not only is it harder to play with all the movement of the fingers, but it sounds better to me.”

Guard Russell Bonham joins Jefferson on the piano occasionally. Bonham played the tuba in high school and now prefers drums. He finds sports and music both require precision.

“You have to have proper technique, or you can’t play music,” Bonham said, “and without technique you can’t play football.”

Dotted line

The Terps have only a few scholarships remaining after securing more early verbal commitments than usual. Players can’t sign formally until Feb.15.

“This has been a really good year,” Friedgen said. “I’m in favor of an early signing period. You wouldn’t have to recruit kids you have committed already. You never get everybody you want, but we’re getting more than we’re not. I feel good about it. It’s fitting our needs.”

The Terps are still recruiting quarterbacks for this year’s class even though they have four passers who are eligible through at least 2006. When one prospective passer asked Friedgen why he should accept a scholarship offer with so many young quarterbacks already on the roster, Friedgen pointed out that no position is secure.

Said Friedgen: “I told the kid, ‘Do you think I would recruit you to sit on the bench? Why would I recruit you if I didn’t think you couldn’t beat that guy out. And when you come here, I’ll try to find a guy better than you. That’s how you get better.’”

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