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Terps coach develops strategies for players on and off field

May 18, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN

University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen admits that there are many aspects of success that keep him motivated.

Maybe the biggest of them is making sure his players are ready to tackle the real world long after they have finished tackling opposing running backs.

"I believe in the student-athlete," Friedgen said Wednesday at the Rotary Club of Hagerstown's weekly meeting at the Four Points Sheraton. "I believe in winning. I believe in graduating players. I'm out to prepare kids for the next 40 years of life, not just the next four."

Maryland's football program has made significant progress during Friedgen's tenure. The Terrapins have won more games in the past five seasons (41) than they did in the 10 seasons prior to his arrival (37). The Terrapins have a 2-1 record in three bowl games under Friedgen.

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Off the field, the coach's impact is also dramatic. Maryland's football program scores nearly 20 percentage points higher than the NCAA's national average of 54 percent in the graduation of players.

"I have to work really hard to have the kids graduate," Friedgen said. "We need to improve the education system for our kids. In recruiting, you see a lot of kids who aren't ready for what they will be getting into when they come to Maryland."

Friedgen, 59, credits his parents, who both were teachers, for giving him a background and interest in education. He even tried to follow their footsteps for a while.

"I thought I was going to be a teacher," the Maryland graduate said. "I tried it and it was like going through two-a-days (practice sessions). I hated it. I found myself hating to get out of bed in the morning. When I was at Maryland, I was coaching on the side. I wasn't supposed to because I had an assistantship, but I fell in love with it."

Friedgen said he was able to return to Maryland because of lessons he learned along the way.

"If you wanted to tell a story about my life, it would be about perseverance," Friedgen said. "I'm a guy who got the job he always wanted. ... I tried three times for it.

"I went out and did my work, did it well and thought it would all happen someday. I'm very spiritual. I believed the Lord had a plan. If I would have got this job earlier, I may not have had the success I had and I wouldn't have coached some great players."

Friedgen talked Monday about what brought him back to College Park. He reminisced about meetings with athletic director Debbie Yow and school president C.D. Mote Jr., and about the comparison of philosophies and goals for the football program.

"When I attended Maryland, I thought we had an inferiority complex," Friedgen said. "I'm proud of my Maryland degree. When I talked to (Mote), he told me how he wanted the school to be the best in everything, including academics and athletics. He had me going right there. I want to be the best, not second best."

Friedgen said one of the major assets for Maryland is its location. With the campus on the doorsteps of Baltimore and Washington, it creates opportunities for athletes to prepare for life.

"I ask all the players coming in to give me their best academically, athletically and socially," Friedgen said. "If they can do that for me, they will be a success. Playing football in our program helps fill challenges that goes over what the regular student gets. It is part of education. Education is the sum of all experiences."

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