- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Terry Caulley amassed some pretty impressive numbers as a running back at Patuxent High School in southern Maryland.

Enough that he wanted to play college football, and Connecticut was the first school to show some interest. The Huskies were about to complete the leap to Division I-A football, but Caulley had aspirations of playing for a more established program a bit closer to home.

“We tried to get Maryland to look at me, but [an assistant coach] laughed at my film,” Caulley said. “I mean, they literally laughed at me. It was a slap to my face.”

Caulley, who stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall, was also deemed too small and too slow by another school — South Carolina — which had someone check out one of his offseason workouts. So despite more than 5,540 yards — including 306 in the 2001 Class 3A state title game at Byrd Stadium — and a school-record time in the 100-meter dash as a member of the track team, Caulley chose the program that wanted him first.

“When I was at the All-State banquet, [Maryland coach] Ralph Friedgen saw my highlight tape and was impressed,” Caulley said. “He wanted to know why they didn’t look at me.”

The diminutive back quickly became a star for the surprising Huskies. Caulley led the nation’s freshmen running backs with 1,247 yards and Connecticut finished its first official season at the I-A level with a 6-6 record.

One of those games was at Navy, the team Connecticut (2-1) plays host to today. Caulley saw it as an opportunity to show people from his home state what the home school was missing. Caulley finished with 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 32 carries in a 38-0 Huskies rout.

“He is a good player,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I remember him when they played here in 2002. The game looked like a scout team game. [Today’s] game will give us a chance to see if we’ve gotten any better I guess.”

His sophomore season started out even better. Caulley led the nation in rushing after four games, but his second carry against Virginia Tech was his last.

Caulley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on that carry and missed the rest of 2003 and the entire 2004 season. He spent 23 months waiting and hoping he could come back and play in a college football game again.

“I kind of missteped or misplanted and hyperextended my knee,” Caulley said. “It was a frustrating situation. I really wanted to rush the process, but it was something I couldn’t do. I went through rehab every day and just needed time and faith.”

He returned last season and led the team with 659 yards. Neither his rushing totals nor the team’s performance (5-6 one year after going 8-4 and winning the Motor City Bowl) were what Caulley expected.

“There was a lot of pressure and high expectations [last season],” Caulley said. “Unfortunately I didn’t have the type of season I was expecting, but it was a learning experience. I needed to knock off the cobwebs and get back into game shape.”

Now three years removed from the injury, Caulley is showing signs of returning to form. After rushing for 95 and 81 yards in the team’s first two games, Caulley carried the Huskies to a 14-7 win at Indiana last week. Caulley had 152 yards on 31 carries and with 328 in three games is back at the 100-plus a game he produced in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

He broke the school’s career rushing mark in the second game of the season against Wake Forest. He needs one more 100-yard game, 17 carries and six touchdowns to own those program records as well.

That’s not a bad career for a kid who overcame doubts about his size and a major knee injury along the way.

“Everything is unfolding the way I hoped,” Caulley said. “I am getting back into that zone that I was in before I got hurt.”

MIDSHIPMEN KEYS

1. Consistency at quarterback — Quickly becoming the theme of the season, how Brian Hampton plays will determine a lot today. When he played well against Stanford, coach Paul Johnson was more willing to open up the playbook. When he struggles, Johnson gets pretty conservative.

2. Slow down Terry Caulley — Connecticut wants to run nearly as much as Navy does, and the school’s career-leading rusher leads the way. Navy has given up a lot of passing yards, but the way Tulsa ran on the Midshipmen is a greater concern.

3. Road warriors — The Mids played by far their best game of the season at Stanford. Some teams just rally better with an us-against-the-world mentality on the road. Connecticut is 16-5 at home since moving into Rentschler Field in 2003.

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