The recruiting momentum is beginning to gather for Maryland. For the second time in the last 18 hours, the Terps have secured a commitment, this time from Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) defensive tackle Aaron Thompson. The three-star joined fellow Floridian Laderrien Wilson (Osceola, Fla.), who pledged to UMD the day before.
“I’m honored to say I’m a Maryland Terp,” said Thompson, who at one time held offers from South Carolina, Tennessee, Syracuse, NC State, Idaho, FIU, UNC and others. “I loved my trip up there and it was just a great vibe. It really felt like a home away from home up at Maryland. The coaches there really made me feel comfortable, and I just felt like it was the best fit for me.
“Coach [D.J.] Durkin, the head coach, he came down to my school [Jan. 21], and he was saying how much it would mean if I committed to Maryland. And I told him, ‘Coach, I’m ready.’ I understood what I was getting into, and I told him I was ready to commit.”
Thompson’s on board now, but before he trekked up to the University of Maryland for his official visit Jan. 16, the three-star admitted to being somewhat skeptical. Yes, the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder had been in contact with two of the Terps’ new assistants, Chris Beatty and Mike London, who previously pursued Thompson at their former employer, UVA, but the recruit barely knew a thing about Maryland. After all, he grew up in Florida, in SEC country, and a Big Ten program that just finished off a three-win season didn’t exactly register on his radar.
But Thompson’s tone quickly changed after arriving in College Park, Md. Despite the cold weather, the Dillard product couldn’t say enough about D.J. Durkin’s football program. Namely, its coaches and players.
“I’m going to be honest, I was worried about the cold weather,” laughed Thompson. “But I got up there and I was like, ‘Man, it’s not all that bad.’ So I think I’ll be OK up there.
“But the coaches at Maryland were just really enthusiastic about the program, and I felt their energy,” Thompson continued. “And they’re all just really cool and easy to get along with. I feel like they’d have my best interests in mind. Coach Durkin, Coach [Scott] Shafer, Coach [Mike] London, Coach [Chris] Beatty, all those guys were great. Coach Beatty came down to my school before, and I just know all the coaches there really wanted me badly at Maryland.”
Of course, Thompson’s known Beatty and London for quite some time. Those two did the heavy lifting in this recruitment, Beatty convincing the tackle to trek north.
“Coach Beatty, I’d been talking to him on the phone for a long time now,” Thompson said. “I only just met him in person, but we had a pretty good relationship. He’s just a cool coach. Coach London, we had a good relationship to when he was at UVA. I feel like he’s going to help me a lot since he’s the D-line coach at Maryland now.”
The staff’s personality wasn’t the only reason Thompson opted for College Park, however. Maryland’s depth chart (or lack thereof) played a primary role in the tackle’s decision too.
“Maryland really needs defensive linemen, like real bad,” Thompson said. “The coaches were saying I’d have a chance to play early there, and just looking at the depth chart I think I could [play early] if I keep working. It’s a great opportunity for me to get on the field and show what I can do right away, and that was a big thing for me.”
While on campus Jan. 16-18, Thompson had a chance to connect with London, his future position coach. He said the ex-UVA headman detailed exactly how he’d fit into defensive coordinator Scott Shafer’s scheme.
“It’s an aggressive, versatile defense and I can play all over the line,” Thompson said. “I can play inside and outside, and just be a playmaker. Coach London is a great coach who I’ve known for a long time, and I know he’s going to get the best out of me. He said I’d be a great fit and he looks forward to working with me.”
Thompson spoke to several current Terps’ defensive linemen during his official, including his player-host Jesse Aniebonam. The Florida defender said all the players he met were “really cool” and easy to connect with.
“I think I’m going to fit in well up there,” Thompson said. “I felt comfortable around the other players and recruits. I had a lot of fun and the people there in general were cool. I liked being in the dorms and just around campus. It was a good feel. It’s a real cool vibe.”
Another aspect of Maryland that caught Thompson’s eye was the school’s communications program. Thompson, who grew up watching ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt and others, wants to be a sports broadcaster and soon found out about Maryland’s renowned program.
“Maryland is like tops in the nation for their communication program, and that’s what I want to study,” Thompson said. “That was another big thing for me. I watched all those ESPN guys, and I want to be like them one day.
“And just how they support you academically there is great and will be an advantage for me. My mom was actually up there with me on the official, and she was really focused on the academic side. She was really impressed with that, and it’s one of the main reasons she liked Maryland a lot.”
Thompson was originally supposed to visit Tennessee, South Carolina and maybe Idaho after Maryland, but he’s reneged. He said he’s cancelled all upcoming officials and can’t wait to get to College Park.
“I’m done, for real,” Thompson said. “I’m just done with this recruiting business. I’m going to focus on my schoolwork now, that’s like the main thing for me. And, honestly, I just really liked it at Maryland. That’s my school.”