Bragg defensive about Terps role

September 16, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Mark Duffner said Jamie Bragg is unselfish.

His high school coach said "there's always a smile on this kid's face."

An underclassman credited Bragg with aiding his switch from offense to defense.

Bragg is honest, thrifty, brave, kind to animals . . . Does anyone have anything bad to say about Maryland's two-way wonder?

"His voice is really irritating," said Steve Ingram. "The center makes the calls for the offensive line, and Jamie's out there shouting all the time in this high pitch. To be 285 pounds and have that high voice . . ."

Left tackle Ingram, a preseason All-American, is usually the Terps' best-known lineman, but that changed when Bragg went both ways against Florida State on Saturday.

Two-way players were fairly common into the 1960s -- see Gary Collins and Tom Brown for the Terps -- but in the every-contingency-is-covered 1990s, they are a Division I-A rarity. Vogue and Popular Electronics are the only publications that didn't interview Bragg this week, and he's getting a kick out of the attention, if not the circumstances that created it.

"Actually, I think my mother's enjoying all the publicity more than I am," said Bragg, who was in on 12 defensive plays last week. "We still lost the game, and we need a win. That's what's going to make me happy. Look, the seniors don't want to go out of here having never been a winner, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team reach that goal."

Maryland, which appears headed to its fourth straight losing season, plays at West Virginia tomorrow (1 p.m.). Bragg is listed as the starting center, but if redshirt sophomore Erik Greenstein does the job at center, opponents will be seeing more of Bragg at defensive tackle.

Before the legend goes too far, let's get some things straight about Bragg.

The strongest Terp -- Bragg bench-presses 415 pounds and squats 635 -- only weighs 275 pounds. More important, last Saturday wasn't the first time he played both ways for the Terps. Two years ago at Florida State, he played nose guard on defense, guard and center on offense, and even ran nine yards on the fumblerooski.

Then, Bragg was a sophomore substitute. Now he's a 23-year-old senior, a co-captain along with his good friend Ingram, and a good distance from the kid who had trouble finding a scholarship and a position in a sport he had to be coaxed into playing.

After one forgettable season of sandlot football, Bragg's boyhood sport of choice was baseball. He gave in to the constant invitations of Andy Borland, the head coach at Severna Park High since 1973, and finally tried high school football as a junior, but he wasn't a full-time starter until he was a senior.

"I had the same problem Duff had," Borland said. "He was so good, I didn't know where to play him.

"Jamie pitched for the baseball team and could throw a football 70 yards, so we looked at him at quarterback. He weighed 230 pounds, but once he got started, he could really run, so I thought I'd make a tailback out of him. He finally played defensive end that first year and stayed there as a senior, when he played some tailback and fullback."

A generation earlier, Guy Dietz, a Severna Park classmate of Bragg's mother, went to Maryland and played alongside Randy White. Borland was ready to send another Falcon the Terps' way, only there was a hitch in the timing. Maryland offered a scholarship, but by the time Bragg got around to saying yes, the Terps' recruiting class was full.

"I was crushed, really scared that I had blown it," Bragg said. "Maryland still wanted me to come in the following spring, and it all worked out for the best. I went to community college for a semester and put on 15 pounds. I was raw, and I didn't have a lot of skills. There was so much too learn."

Bragg entered Maryland in the spring of 1990 and finally played for the Terps in 1991.

He was moved to offense in 1992, and became the full-time center last year, snapping the ball on every offensive play. Coincidence or not, the defense slipped without him.

The switch to two drills, two meetings, two film sessions is part Bragg's doing. Ten days ago, after the Terps' first full practice following a season-opening 49-16 loss at Duke, Bragg approached Duffner and resumed a conversation they had throughout last winter and spring.

"I asked him if he wanted me to play some defense," Bragg said. "He said he'd been thinking about it, too. I don't think I would be doing this if I wasn't open to it."

"This isn't a gimmick," Duffner said. "Based on our youth and lack of depth on the line, Jamie knew he would have to be ready to play defense, but it still takes an unselfish, team-oriented guy to attempt something like this."

Let the testimonial resume.

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