Letterwinners pass through Maryland’s practice field during the week and Byrd Stadium on Saturdays. Much has changed in the five years or more since old players last took the field. But in that time, one thing remained constant.
The kids who dived after footballs during drills under Mark Duffner are still around. The preteen string beans who followed their dad around during the Ron Vanderlinden era remain.
Deege and Tommy Galt - fifth-year seniors savoring a final season working with their father, director of strength and conditioning Dwight Galt - are staples of the Terrapins’ program.
“We’ve been here - gosh, it seems like forever,” Deege Galt said. “We’ve really grown up around here.”
In many ways.
The twin brothers’ time at Maryland is dwindling, with perhaps as few as four games remaining in their careers. And while the Terps are struggling, the season nevertheless delivered the reward of extensive playing time and the opportunity to share a final year together with their dad.
The five seasons were rarely easy. But the payoff of earning a significant place in the Terps’ scheme - and sharing it through lifting sessions and daily dinners with a proud papa - created special moments for a tight-knit family.
“We’re family, and we’re family through football, and we’re family through actually being family,” Tommy said. “We get to spend more time [together] than any other father would be able to spend with their sons. It’s a unique experience.”
Deege has started each game for the Terps at anchor, a de facto defensive end, and has 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Tommy, a tight end, has six starts and ranks fourth on the team with 12 receptions.
“I’m happy they’re playing and playing well in their season year,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “They’ve paid their dues, never gotten down and always worked hard. They’re really role models for our team.”
Deege Galt was born March 12, 1987. Tommy followed 16 minutes later. They played high school ball together and started lifting with the help of their dad well before arriving at college.
The similarities don’t end there. Both are among the first players on the field for pregame warmups, with Deege certain to walk barefoot through the grass within minutes of arriving at the stadium. The brothers avidly root the Boston Red Sox. And on Saturday at Duke, both suffered the same injury - a sprain of the AC joint in the shoulder.
Sure, there are some giveaways as to who is who. Tommy wears a goatee, Deege doesn’t. But for the most part, they’ve remained inseparable - even when Deege thought about exploring other possibilities after receiving an offer from Maryland.
“Tommy said he wanted to come here,” Deege said. “I was a little unsure at first. Back then, I was 18. I was young and dumb. We weren’t quite sure if we were going to split up or what we were going to do. We were still looking at a couple more schools.”
But there was something to the idea of remaining together. Some major schools wanted one but not the other. Army was interested in both, but Tommy knew he wanted to attend Maryland if given the opportunity. Some Division I-AA programs expressed interest in a package deal.
One possibility, though, offered more than everything else.
“In the end, it became an opportunity that you couldn’t pass up, playing in front of your family for your dad at a great school, great program, great everything,” Tommy said. “It really was the best opportunity possible. It wasn’t something you could draw up. It was perfect.”
Reality rarely is, though. Deege lost his redshirt freshman season to a torn ACL and barely played before this season. Tommy etched out a place on Maryland’s field goal and extra point unit but was a marginal offensive contributor.
The brothers could have left after last season. Neither wanted to endure the what ifs of calling it a career prematurely.
“It was something we all talked about after last year,” Dwight Galt said. “The boys were like, ‘No way. We’re going to finish. We’re going to push and see what we’ve got.’ I’m really, really proud of them for wanting to really push this thing.”
Doubts, on occasion, surfaced in their minds. But so did the appreciation of remaining part of a program they had dreamed of joining since their earliest memories. And the prospect of sharing another season with their dad meant something, too.
“There was frustration ,and there was thoughts of ‘should we be here, should we be doing this?’ ” Tommy said. “Every time those thoughts I came up, I always sat down and thought logically about why did I come here, and I came here for my family. I came here to play with my brother and for my dad and get an education. I looked at the big picture and all that was still in line. I had no reason to leave or be disgruntled.”
Every now and then, playing for their father adds an extra layer of complexity to the Galts’ day-to-day routine.
A couple of years ago, Deege was lifting during a test day in the spring and barely missed a weight during a power clean session. It’s an emotional lift, and for a moment, he forgot just where he was.
“In a reaction, he just kind of hit the wall - punched a hole in the wall,” Tommy said. “As soon as he did, his eyes just kind of lit up like, ‘Oh boy.’ Of course, my dad is sitting down at the other end. Deege looked at me, and it was just like we were kids, just like we were 10 years old and we punched a hole in the wall back home. What are we going do about this?”
Along with some mischief, there’s also room for a little fraternal squabbling. In a spring practice, Deege lined up over Tommy during an extra point drill to start the session. Deege went full speed at the whistle, giving Tommy a stinger that lingered for half the practice.
Tommy was furious, and the drive home was tense, but within a couple of days the incident had blown over. But when camp commenced in August, the situation reversed.
“It was the first team period, and Tommy got Deege the exact same way, and Deege got a real bad stinger,” Dwight Galt said. “Deege got real mad at him, and Tommy said, ‘Well, you did it to me like four months earlier.’ Deege was mad, but it was defused pretty quickly because it was, ‘Now we’re even.’ ”
They’re also equal on the field after some trying times. Both earned their first career start in the season opener. As is their custom, the brothers spent time with their father the night before a game, calmly snacking and watching TV while their dad grew nervous while anxiously waiting for his sons’ big day.
There were plenty more to follow, even if there weren’t as many as they once wished.
“Obviously, being competitive, you always want to get on the field quicker than you really do,” Deege said. “You want to go and play quick and get on the field as soon as you get here. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it worked out pretty well.”
Perhaps no one enjoyed it more than their father, who admits he did not think much about the family connection earlier in the boys’ careers. Maybe it’s because Deege and Tommy have always been part of the landscape in College Park. It probably has something to do with the 120 other players who cycle through the weight room.
No matter the reason, it is still a magical season for the Galts.
“This year and this season with them being seniors, I’ve really sat back and said, ‘This is phenomenal,’ ” Dwight Galt said. “This is an unbelievable blessing to have your two sons in here playing for you. It’s been awesome.”
• Patrick Stevens can be reached at email@example.com.
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