COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It wasn't quite a Gilman alumni reunion weekend, but it came pretty close.
On Friday night, on the eve of the Terps football opener versus Howard, former Gilman (Baltimore, MD) coordinator and now St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, MD) head coach Henry Russell hosted a group chat on-line for all the Terps Gilman alums, while also looping in the likes of former Greyhound Micah Kizer, the star junior linebacker and national honors candidate at Virginia, and H-Back Henry Poggi at Michigan.
The next morning, in the D.J. Durkin debut game and easy 52-13 victory over the Bison, three former Greyhounds had played leading roles for Maryland, and all three at new homes.
There was sophomore BUCK Melvin Keihn, eager to get into the fray after sitting out last season following a transfer from Virginia Tech, running with second team and playing a lot behind starter Jesse Aniebonam. And while doing so, terrorizing the Bison backfield to the tune of a team-second-best five tackles, including two tackles-for-a loss, both on the same series when he looked shot out of a cannon snuffing out plays.
Then there was sophomore converted Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, getting his first start at the WILL linebacker position, and also registering five tackles in little over a half of play.
Finally, there was the "old soul" of the group, senior and former fullback Kenny Goins, now at running back, ripping off a 36-yard gain from scrimmage with the Terps starting on their own two to get some breathing room. Goins, who many wondered what would happen to after fullback was no longer a part of the new offense, rushed four times for 40 yards and also played on special teams.
After the game, three of the five players that the Terps brass chose to bring to media interviews were the former Greyhounds, who all made a statement that day.
"It was funny, last night we all got together and watched St. Frances on TV, and we were joking about Coach Russell and what we would have done and this and that in that game," Cockerille said on Saturday afternoon after the Terps win.
"And this today, well obviously it feels great because we were all on the same high school team together. Obviously we had a good high school team, and we are all family. But to all be out there finally making plays like that, well it just feels pretty good."
Cockerille was around the ball a good bit but said he still needs work on shedding bigger blockers and with his keys and reads. But overall he enjoyed finally hitting another opponent beyond fellow Terps in practices, and finally getting the monkey off his back in his first start at the new spot.
"For sure, I just wanted to get the first hit out of the way, pop someone, and be comfortable the rest of the way," Cockerille said. "I think like Coach said, he prepared us very well for Howard. There wasn't anything we weren't expecting. So going in I knew what my keys were, reading the guard, reading the fullback, where to be overall. I think I had pretty good eyes but there are some things I can clean up for sure."
Said Goins of his teammate Cockerille: "I'm not surprised about Shane at all, as he can play anything. Put him anywhere and he will give his all."
Cockerille said it was just like old times, and expected nothing less from his two former prep teammates.
"Oh Melvin, he was super-eager, flying around making plays," Cockerille said. "It was kinda hard for me and Jermaine (Carter) to make many plays because the D-Line was flying around making all the plays (laughs)."
Keihn was equally appreciative of his former high school quarterback that has bounced around so many spots at College Park.
"For his first time (at linebacker), I thought he did pretty well," Keihn said. "We all got a lot of work to do to get better, but I am proud of him and he took a step going from quarterback to running back to linebacker now."
As for his own game, Keihn said reading his keys needs to be better as well, as one time he lost the edge because of eye control. But he added he knew his responsibilities and hustled from whistle to whistle. He blew up ball carriers twice in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage, while decking the Howard quarterback on a scramble towards the sideline.
"At the end of the day, I still have a lot of things to work on like my eye control. But we'll watch the film, it was the first game, and I will get better," Keihn said.
He joked his old prep bud Goins should have had one last move in him on that long run from scrimmage.
"I thought he was, oh I thought that boy was about to cut that outside," Keihn quipped. "But I am very proud of my teammates, all my high school teammates like Kenny and Shane. It's great to be back on the field with them, seeing the Maryland fans out there today and the new staff. It's something you want to go through after I had to sit out last year. So we wanted to have a lot of fun and let loose and we did that today,"
Goins is the quietest of the three, but was beaming after this one, and getting a new lease on life at running back, one of Maryland's deepest positions.He dropped seven pounds this off-season to try and quicken up some, and definitely showed some burst on the long gainer. In the winter he wasn't sure what his role would be.
"It was a good game for us," Goins said of the Gilman trio. "And I expect them to do well because I know what kind of players they are from high school and from camp, all the plays they have been making. And Melvin, yeah he is a good athlete, he is quick, and at the position he plays he is a lot quicker than the tackles he will be playing again. So it will help him for sure.
"And on that run, I thought Malcolm (Culmer) was going to block the corner (laughs), so I was just looking at the safety and seeing if I can beat him. But we'll just have to watch the film on that one."
The highest praise may have been Cockerille for Keihn, who many had a hard time pinning down as far as a true position (given his weight, etc) when he arrived here last winter as a skinny defensive end.
"Melvin brings a lot to the table for us," Cockerille said. "He's a very athletic kid, you can play him really anywhere because he is super fast, super wiry, and he's a quick, smart guy. And obviously he is very strong, He is ripped up. When you see him with his shirt off he is like a body builder. In camp he was doing great so I knew he was going to make an impact for us."
Keihn said he was going to text his adoptive father, new Michigan special assistant and former Gilman head coach Biff Poggi, after he was done with interviews. And that there was plenty more work to do for the Terps despite the lopsided win in Week One.
"And one thing I learned from my high school coach (Poggi), is after this first game a win is a win, enjoy the game, but starting tomorrow we got a game on Friday so we got to be out of here by Thursday. Tomorrow our focus turns right now to FIU, And it will keep getting harder, but we will keep getting better. And we can't worry who we play or what their name is, just got to work harder and keep playing better."