Running back Jamal Speaks (Ballou/Washington, D.C.) is only a freshman, but that didn’t stop the University of Maryland from becoming the first FBS program to offer the budding 6-foot, 185-pounder. Speaks, who has grown up in the shadows of College Park, Md., was on his way home from school March 11 when he received the call from his head coach.
“When my coach called to tell me the news, I was almost about to cry,” said Speaks, who previously held one offer from Charlotte. “I had no idea I’d be getting a big offer like Maryland so fast. My mother, she was with me at the time and she was just shocked. We were speechless. Then my coach was just like, ‘Stay humble, keep working, and now it’s time for you to step up and prove yourself.’”
The offer itself wasn’t the reason Speaks was so emotional, however. Evidently Maryland was the scholarship he'd coveted since watching the Terps on TV growing up, and then playing in then-Byrd Stadium during state playoff games.
“Maryland is my dream school, for real,” Speaks said. “It’s my hometown school and I’m a Maryland guy. I’ve always wanted to play there, and I’ve pictured myself in those Under Armour jerseys running the ball there. When I got the offer, that’s the image I had, just picturing myself playing for Maryland.
“I’ve been up there before and it’s a real nice campus and I love playing in the stadium. It’s a great place to be and I want to stay close to home for college.”
Speaks said he doesn’t plan to commit until his junior year, but he insists his opinion of UMD won’t change. He’ll undoubtedly land numerous major offers in the next couple years, however. Could that cause him to reconsider?
“Man, Maryland is my school,” said Speaks, who is unaware what schools might ante up next. “That’s where I want to be.”
The Ballou back hasn’t spoken to his UMD recruiter, Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, yet, but he plans to call him in short order. Speaks said he’s aware of Abdul-Rahim’s roots in D.C. and coaching prowess, and can’t wait to meet him firsthand.
“I haven’t been up to Maryland for a real visit yet, so I have to go soon,” said Speaks, who also mentioned that he's inclined to stay at Ballou rather than transfer to a private school in D.C. “I just want to meet the coaches and find out more about them. I’m excited.”
Speaks, who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, is coming off a season where he rushed for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns, starting as a freshman. He earned first-team All-D.C. honors.