Wujciak Sustaining Tradition

Two-INT effort at Miami solidified LB's place in Terp history.

There are currently six former Terps linebackers on four NFL rosters, including Eric Barton and D’Qwell Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, E.J. and Erin Henderson of the Minnesota Vikings, Shawne Merriman of the Buffalo Bills, and most recently, Moise Fokou of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Perhaps the league should make room for yet another Maryland standout.

Alex Wujciak, the third-year starting middle linebacker for the Terps single-handedly kept his team within a fighter’s bunch Saturday in Miami, when the team fell short of the Hurricanes 26-20. Wujciak recorded two interceptions of Canes true freshman quarterback Stephen Harris, including one that he returned 60 yards to the end-zone, the second of his brilliant career.

“I hear some people malign his pass coverage at times and probably it is a fair criticism. But nobody has a better feel for the pass game than he does from his position,” Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said. “He has a knack for understanding concepts, seeing receivers, being able to see the receivers and get his eyes back [to the quarterback].”

Brown added that Wujciak had a hand on a third pick but was not able to get his second on the ball.

The 238 career interception yards places the linebacker second in the team’s all-time record books, and the touchdown designates him as one of only five Terps to return two for scores.

Yet people are still critical of Wujciak’s pass coverage.

There is no doubt, however, of the kind of career he has had with the Terrapins. In his first three seasons as a starter, Wujciak has compiled a resume that lists 348 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and 3.5 sacks through 34 games – exactly why he has become the defensive quarterback.

“The defense so everything kind of revolves around you,” Wujciak explained. “You got to make checks, you got to know what everyone is doing and you got to be able to do things in the run game and the pass game.”

Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen credits Wujciak’s success to his natural instinct, which innately draws him towards the ball when he is on the field.

“He’s one of these guys who want to be on the ball all the time,” Friedgen said. “Some guys can find the ball and some guys can’t. Alex is the one of those guys that has instincts to be able to find the football; that’s one the reasons why he gets interceptions and tipped balls.”

Friedgen acknowledged that proud history the team has of developing elite linebackers, and said that the tradition has certainly been passed on through the play of Wujciak. He suggested linebackers Adrian Moten and Demetrious Hartsfield both fall into that category as well.

Despite questioning if Vince Lombardi would allow his star backer to braid his lengthy locks, he embraced him as one of the hardest workers on the team, and among the toughest because he rarely leaves the field despite various injuries.

“It’s been a real pleasure to coach him. I’m going to miss Alex quite a bit. Everybody knows he’s probably my favorite,” Friedgen said filled with emotions with a noticeable tear in his eye and choke. “He’s a heck of a football player; he’s a heck of a kid.”

With Wujciak set to graduate in the springtime, Friedgen admitted that he has truly cherished the opportunity he has had to coach a player of his caliber. And regardless of being projected by ESPN as a fourth-round draft choice, he shall always remain number one in his head coach’s heart.

Sam Spiegelman

Twitter: @samspiegs


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