COLLEGE PARK, MD -- Open football walk-on tryouts at Maryland have attracted all kinds in the past, from one-time wrestlers (see Spencer Myers) to future wrestlers (see pro grappler Dean Muhtadi), to even lacrosse players (Justin Duffie) and "frat" boys.
They have certainly shown up in all shapes and sizes indeed.
But last January's offing, under first-year Coach D.J. Durkin, had never seen the likes of one attendee, once-and-future Terp Jacquille Veii.
You see Vei, the former 3-star running back under former coach Randy Edsall, who was caught between back and wanting to play receiver, transferred to Towson after his sophomore year at UMD wanting to be a full-time slot.
That he did to the tune of a Towson team-leading 44 receptions for 505 yards two seasons ago. The explosive talent with make-you-miss ability averaged 11.5 yards per clip. But once Edsall left, well, Veii was back knocking on the door at College Park last winter.
There was a catch for the former Avalon star, as he would have to spend his first year back sitting out, and at UMD on his own 'dime.'
That he did, and then Durkin, who was still getting to know all his personnel at College Park, had him go through the open walk-on, the type of tryouts often advertised in the campus newspaper.
Wow, the look on some of the coaches' eyes when the 4.4 40-yard dash blazer went through drills. But Veii was more than happy to oblige, at least after the initial sticker-shock of sizing up the 15 other participants.
"I'm not going to lie, I was surprised at first," he quipped this month. "I was like 'okay, eat my humble pie' and just do what they ask me to do. It was a little weird because I was already here before. But I just kept my head low and did what I had to do."
Veii, who was just rewarded his Terps scholarship, again, in January, has just one season left, but he plans on making the most of it.
"Jacquille, we have high expectations for him," head coach D.J. Durkin said. "You look at practices last year, he's obviously a guy who could have helped us. Obviously he had to sit out because of the transfer, but he's really fast; dynamic; has speed; competitive; works hard. He's everything you want, and he can help us at a number of positions. He'll definitely be a guy that's playing and helping us."
He has several mentors, including Stefon Diggs and Paint Branch High coach Myron Flowers, who he trains with in the off-season. But like Diggs, receiver was the spot he always longed for, so ever since he has been fine-tuning his craft.
"I just fell in love with the position. I loved learning from Coach [Keenan] McCardell before, and Coach [Chris} Beatty now is a great, great coach now and very knowledgeable," Veii said. "I just fell in love with the position, and running back was not something I wanted to do. So I worked my butt off and honed my craft at Towson to try and become a complete receiver."
Veii chuckles about the fact he has never heard of a player who has left a school only to transfer back again, but it was all part of the plan that unfolded before him.
"I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew I would have to sit out first, the scholarship would come later, and me preparing myself mentally to do, well that was my job."
And he has become a much better student of the game, he said:
"Watching film, I am more patient and defining my routes better now. Before, at times watching my film at Towson, I was sick to my stomach watching my films. Back then all I would try to do is run away from guys because I was fast. But now I know my techniques."
Veii said his mother knew he would make it through the year or adjustment, "and was in support of me throughout the whole process," as he paid his own way for a year. He said his teammates understood as well, and respected his decision to come back in the unprecedented move after the coaching change at College Park.
Veii is one of the shiftiest athletes on campus, and is tops at wide-out and could see work in the return game possibly as well. He said his move from running back to receiver has been the best thing possible for him.
"The body positioning you play with at wide receiver and running back are two different things, with how you have to move your body and all your motions and all," said the mighty-mite. "Stef [Diggs} has really helped me with that every time he is back from Minnesota. We are working out, working out, working out, every time he comes back. He tells me to be a pro now in how you prepare and act, and if I ever get that opportunity I will seize it in everything I do."
Diggs little brother, Trevon, attended Avalon for a few years as well.
But from that tiny school start, to UMD and then Towson and now UMD again, Veii has had to earn his stripes.
"Anytime you come from not playing for a year, it's like a shark and you smell blood in the water and you want to eat. And now I want to eat," he said.
Veii, Taivon Jacobs and D.J. Moore are the top three receivers so far this spring, replacing a big group from a year ago led by seniors Levern Jacobs and Teldrick Morgan. It is key they step up as the next wave of upperclass targets come the fall.
But looking back on it all, Veii said about that fateful tryout where he had to go way, way back to his basics.
"So they had their winter workouts, and they had a little thing out on the field with us walk-ons. And they put me thru some agility drills and ones for stamina. They wanted to see my body movements," he said. "And it was hard, they put you through a lot I guess to see who wants to make it, the sacrifice. But I guess I did pretty well because I made the team [laughs]. But a couple coaches that knew me just said, 'man, you just got to bite the bullet." And we all just kinda smiled afterwards about it all. It was all cool and fun looking back now on it."