COLLEGE PARK - Several of the state's top players were in attendance when the Maryland football staff opened its camp for high school players earlier this week.
Catonsville fullback Chris Wilson was in attendance when the camp began Wednesday, as was Bowie's Reggie Holmes, a linebacker. Also, Michael Vick's younger brother, Marcus, traveled to the Maryland campus from Newport News, Va., and nationally ranked defensive lineman Kwakou Robinson came from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Those players were among the nearly 1,000 who will have come here over two sessions before the end of next week. Part of the reason is to get better. Part of it is to showcase their skills in front of a Division I football staff.
"They'd like to see how they stand up, not only against the best players in Maryland but also the best kids in the country," said Albert Merrills, a coach at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County.
Merrills' son, Mario, will be a freshman for the Maryland football team this fall, and he says that the camp was a major reason why. "It was very positive. ... We saw that the coaching staff would be very supportive, very knowledgeable. It was such a powerful thing that he made a commitment at the camp."
The camp, run by running backs coach Mike Locksley, costs $280 for players who stay overnight at the dorms and has more of an emphasis on fundamentals, according to coaches and players who showed up.
Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen, who ran the camp at Georgia Tech when he was an assistant there, said he had been used to more of a team camp. But the individual format - instituted by former coach Ron Vanderlinden in 1997 - was popular with high school coaches throughout the state.
"When I went to all the high schools, all of the coaches wanted to know if we were going to keep the camp the same way," Friedgen said. "If the coaches think the kids are going to get something out of it, they're going to attend it. The numbers have been good, so the past staff has obviously done a great job of getting this thing going."
The biggest name at the camp was Marcus Vick, whose older brother, Michael, was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the first pick of the NFL draft. The 6-foot, 180-pound quarterback said he wasn't interested in Maryland, but he came to College Park at the behest of his high school coach, Tommy Reamon.
"Whatever camp he decided on, that's the one I attended," said Vick, who is considered one of the top 10 quarterback prospects in high school and had attended a camp at Virginia earlier in the week. He said his goal was to "polish my throwing activities, help my arm strength out and to keep a clear head."
His coach, Reamon, said it was important for Vick and his teammate, Brendan Hill, to "get some good work around some great people" and advised coaching staffs, "if he happens to be on your campus, you have to give it your best shot."
Robinson, on the other hand, said that checking out College Park was a major reason for coming here, just as he had to camps at Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, three other schools which had offered him scholarships in addition to Maryland.
"My coach wanted me to come out; he thought it would be a great opportunity and that's basically why I'm here," said Robinson, a 6-4, 310-pound senior from Poly Prep Country Day School.