Andrew Park (Lake Braddock/Burke, Va.) held initial offers from a quartet of FCS programs heading into late February, but the budding junior tight end saw his recruitment reach a B1G level Feb. 23. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder ventured up to College Park, Md., for his first look at the University of Maryland, and before leaving campus head coach D.J. Durkin extended an offer.
“I was kind of surprised when he offered me, but I was happy about it and honored. It was my first major offer,” said Park, who previously claimed verbals from the likes of Bucknell, Eastern Kentucky, JMU and Fordham. “My dad was there with me too, and he was very happy for me. We both have similar feelings about Maryland and are excited for the future of the program.”
The Maryland staff initiated contact with Park in mid-February, a Terps’ graduate assistant letting the tight end know of the school’s interest. Soon thereafter, UMD-area recruiter Chris Beatty assumed the lead role and began urging Park to visit College Park.
“Coach Beatty was telling me I had to get up on campus so they could see how big I am and see what Maryland had to offer me. So me and my dad had an opportunity to go [Feb. 23],” Park said. “I thought it was great. The facilities are amazing there. They have amazing plans for the future with the new indoor fields, the tunnel and just the facility in general is going to be amazing. It really surprised me.
“And we went around in a van to see the campus, and it’s like a mixture of modern and old-fashioned buildings. It was really cool and a really nice college campus.”
While touring College Park, Park inquired about the school’s academics, a primary concern for the Lake Braddock product. Evidently he liked what Beatty and Co. told him.
“The academics kind of surprised me too; they had better academics than they thought they would,” Park said. “The education really stood out to me too.”
Following the trek through College Park, the Burke native had meetings with tight ends coach Pete Lembo, offensive coordinator Walt Bell and, finally, Durkin himself. Park offered up praise for all three, lauding their energy, vision and overarching message.
“I talked with Coach Lembo for about 20 minutes, and he was going over the core values of the school, what Maryland stands for as a school and what the football program is about overall. And that’s competing every day and honesty.
“Then I sat down with Coach Bell, and we talked for 45 minutes about how they use the tight end and how I fit the perfect mold they’re looking for. They want someone who can block and catch passes, play in-line and get downfield. That’s what I’m about. That’s my game.”
Before leaving College Park, though, Park and his father had a long meeting with Durkin. The headman reiterated Lembo’s pitch, with the added caveat of handing the tight end a Maryland scholarship at the end.
“Coach Durkin’s message was he wants to find guys who compete every day in school and on the field, and he wants to build something really special at Maryland,” Park said. “I felt really close to his values of accountability and honesty, and it was really something good.
“I think all the Maryland coaches are really enthusiastic about what they’re doing. They’re all about the future and building the program. They all have the right mindset and are very positive. I’ll probably be talking to Coach Beatty and Coach Lembo a lot in the future, because you have to build relationships with all of the coaches to really get to know who you could be playing for. I’m looking forward to it.”
After the trip, Park said he’d “definitely” be returning in a couple weeks for a spring practice. He plans to attend a UMD game during the fall as well.
“Maryland is at the top right now because it is my biggest offer,” Park said. “I like it there a lot.”
Not that Park is ready to commit just yet. He’s receiving interest from Tennessee, Penn State, Duke, Temple, Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio, and wants to see which of those programs offer next. In particular, Park said coaches from the Vols, Blue Devils and Nittany Lions have been in touch the most.
“I’d say of the schools showing interest, Tennessee, Duke and Penn State are sticking out,” said Park, who visited the likes of UNC, Tennessee, Duke, Va Tech, PSU, JMU and William & Mary prior to UMD. “I’d say probably Tennessee would be a dream offer. I’ve just been talking to them for awhile and I like what the school has to offer. It’s in the SEC too, and that would be kind of a dream for me.”
Park will return to Penn State Feb. 27, followed by second forays through Knoxville, Tenn., and Durham, N.C. Then he'll hit Cincinnati, Miami of Ohio and possibly Temple.
“I’m just going through the process and making sure I find the right school,” Park said. “I kind of want to commit before my senior year so I can focus on my senior season and not worry about recruiting. Probably June or July is when I’ll choose a school.”