- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

There were plenty of times that Henry Scott wanted to just chuck his helmet onto the practice field and walk away from the team.

He sacrificed for three years but got little playing time. The Maryland Terrapins defensive tackle thought every day about quitting.

Scott worked two jobs to pay for college. He became a father last summer. His brother is serving 30 years in prison. There were lots of demands and little return from football.

But Scott is one of five Terrapins seniors this season who are starting regularly for the first time. Scott never surrendered his dream, nor did safeties Chris Kelley and Ray Custis, offensive tackle Lou Lombardo and fullback Maurice Smith.

Those difficult years simply melted away for Scott when he recovered a Temple fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in a 45-21 victory on Saturday.

“I didn’t think it could get bigger than starting my first college game [a week earlier against Northern Illinois],” he said, “and then I go out there and score a touchdown. For me, this whole year is like a dream come true. Not a lot of Division I walk-ons get the opportunity I have. I put my whole life into football.”

Terps coach Ralph Friedgen spent two years on Maryland’s scout team before finally getting playing time in 1969. Many starters also served on the scout team, practicing all week but not playing in games. Former quarterback Scott McBrien spent one year with the backups, then went on to start two seasons and win two bowl MVP awards.

“If you go down [to the scout team] with the wrong attitude, you’re never going to get off it,” Friedgen said. “If you say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get better, keep on fighting, show them I’m not that type player’ you’re not on the scout team for long. I used to get in a fight every day, I was so frustrated. You look back, and those were lessons well learned.”

Custis thought playing time would come quickly after he earned prep All-American honors at Northwest High School in Germantown. Instead, he redshirted his first year and played some special teams his second. Custis was a reserve the last two years and made some memorable plays. He stopped Florida State quarterback Chris Rix on the goal line last season and sealed a victory over N.C. State in 2002 with an interception.

Kelley was considered one of the top quarterbacks in the nation after he finished 39-0 at Seneca Valley in Germantown. However, Kelly had three knee operations in three years, which forced him to move to safety last season. He’s now one of the Terps’ most feared hitters.

Lombardo started 43 straight games at Calvert Hall in Baltimore, earning all-state honors twice. Certainly, he thought, he would be plugged right into the Terps lineup. Instead, he was redshirted one season before playing regularly as a reserve.

Smith cited his ACC championship ring and two more from bowl victories as his reason for staying, even though he carried the ball only once in three seasons. A former standout linebacker at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md., he started twice last season after playing special teams since his freshman year. Now he’s the big blocker in the backfield.

Running onto the field as a starter was a rush — and a blur. Lombardo didn’t notice the sellout crowd at Byrd Stadium against Northern Illinois on Sept.4 until the second half.

“The last couple years I’ve run out on that field, and it’s a great feeling,” Lombardo said, “but this time I was so focused on what I had to do that I zoned out the crowd. You forget about the fans and band. When you’re in the huddle, it’s still loud, but it goes away.”

Scott savored his first start. After three years, it was worth pausing.

“Before that first snap, you look around,” he said. “You take it all in. I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Ironically, the seniors now feel like senior citizens. Those two-hour practices in the heat can be grueling. Oh, to be young again, they say.

“We walk around campus and see ‘welcome class of 2008’ and, man, we’re definitely old men,” Lombardo said. “You come off the practice field and the younger guys are a little tired and we’re like, ‘Give me an ice bag.’”

Does one quick season seem more like a tease than a reward? The quintet won’t complain over getting their a chance.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Custis said, “but I’m glad I went through it.”

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