COLLEGE PARK -- On Aug. 19 at Terps football camp, Maryland senior receiver DeAndre Lane -- all 5-foot-7, 175-pounds of him -- caught an intermediate sideline ball from Perry Hills, pivoted, and quickly jetted down the left sideline untouched for a score on the first play of the session.
A few hours later, in final scrimmaging work that day, he punctuated the session by going up over the middle over two taller defenders in the end zone for a scoring strike of some 20 yards, also from Hills.
Maryland's "little big-man" continues to get the job done (see his two touchdowns/two-point conversions in Saturday's open scrimmage in Maryland Stadium), remaining among the starting unit for D.J. Durkin's first squad, despite the fact for three years he was mostly a forgotten man around Maryland football.
Lane, the speedster out of Catonsville, was seemingly 'AWOL' beyond a scant few special teams duties over the years, and he nearly left school.
But he had two driving forces keeping him around: his 1 1/2 year baby daughter, Kylie, and a lease on life when former offensive coordinator and interim head coach Mike Locksley shook things up in the second half of the season after Randy Edsall was let go by inserting a lot of new offensive personnel.
Now, Lane is an "old-soul" on a Terrapin receiver unit breaking in a lot of new (and talented) faces this month in camp, a list led by summertime transfers Teldrick Morgan and Chris Jones, as well as promising freshmen Tino Ellis and D.J. Turner. But Lane remains on the first team, with budding sophomore star D.J. Moore and another once-frustrated senior finishing on a high note, Malcolm Culmer, who also emerged from the shadows last fall.
Receiver is now one of Maryland's most deepest, explosive units, thanks in part to the new infusion. But also because of the senior renaissance led by Lane and Co. He is fast, quick, runs good routes and since the spring has simply been holding onto most every ball. And he is a quick learner, too, adapting quickly to the new scheme.
"Personally, I think I gained my confidence back. Those three years were kinda rough on me. I was kinda out," Lane said. "I was just working hard, but it was going unnoticed, unappreciated. So when I got my chance when Locksley became head coach, I took advantage of that. Ad when the new coaches came in, well I knew it was a clean slate then, so I just dedicated myself to what they were saying and have been ever since."
Few Terps have benefited as much from the change as Lane, who said a new energy went through the team house like a bolt of lightning.
"A lot," he said of change. "You could just say they are more like "energizers." They came in from the jump and told us what it was going to be like, and that they were not going to settle for less. So it was either we had to adapt or we had to leave. So everyone chose to adapt, buy into what they were saying, as we could tell that they really wanted to win. And we all want to win, we are sick of losing, so it wasn't a hard choice."
Lane has gotten in the best shape of his life, and is mentally and physically well-prepared each day out. He said the change in the weight room beginning last winter was profound as well.
"Coach (D.J.) Durkin, Coach (Rick) Court, all of them they are like wild dudes," Lane said. "Like (Terps center) Brendan (Moore) said, they are a human version of a can of Red Bull (laughs). Every day they are coming in at 5:30 in the morning, music blasting, trying to make sure everyone is awake. Screaming, yelling, and it gets everyone hyped. So instead of being dead at practice, we are all more life-like."
Said Terps senior offensive guard Maurice Shelton, who has had his own renaissance after years of struggle/anonymity and remains in the first group on the right side:
"I have seen him work hard and grow as a player," Shelton said of Lane. "Definitely I have seen his grind, how he has come up in the ranks, stuck to it. So I am very happy for him. And we all know he is fast, but I have just seen him grow and improve his game as well."
Lane has many forms of motivation, beginning with his stature. But it hasn't prevented him from making big plays most every day out. And he has a lot more competition nowadays in the UMD receiver ranks, like senior Levern Jacobs as well, and everyone saw how explosive Morgan can be on Saturday in the scrimmage, too.
"I am still the shortest one in the room, but I am still going up and making plays," Lane said. "But some people used to look down on that, 'he's too short,' that kind of thing."
Lane said the feeling has also pervaded the QBs room, where he said the Terps' signal-callers are more relaxed.
"They are more confident with the new coaches, are playing more relaxed, so we are looking good." he said.
But his biggest motivation is his daughter, who lives with her mother in Columbia.
"There was there was a point I thought about leaving before she was born. I thought about leaving. But I can't leave because I have to be close to home, to her. I use her as my motivation now to do even more."
Lane may be a small man with a soft voice, but he feels the Terps' receiving corps will have to be reckoned with this fall.
"We are a lot deeper, we've got a lot of young boys coming up learning that will potentially get on the field this year. As a unit, I think we are going to be something the Big Ten has to watch out for this season."