Recognition not secondary for Terrapins safety Wilson

After tough start, he gets ACC honorable mention

College Football

November 28, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - As Dennard Wilson can attest, great feats sometimes have humble beginnings.

It wasn't so long ago that Wilson, a senior strong safety, was a shaky sophomore in Maryland's much-maligned secondary. In 2001, Florida State quarterback Chris Rix went out of his way to pick on Wilson in a 52-31 win in Tallahassee, Fla., in which Rix threw five touchdown passes.

Wilson, however, erased the game from his memory and has improved steadily ever since. He's widely regarded as one of the Terps' team leaders. And this week, when the all-conference team came out, Wilson's name was on it.

"To me, it was a step forward," said Wilson, who earned honorable mention honors. "I felt like I went through all last year without getting the recognition I deserved. That's all I asked for was honorable mention. It feels good to finally get it, because I feel confident about my abilities."

Wilson's honor was also important because it created an interesting distinction for the Terps: Maryland was the only secondary in the Atlantic Coast Conference to have all four of its defensive backs honored. Safety Madieu Williams and cornerback Domonique Foxworth made the second team, while Curome Cox also received an honorable mention.

"That's a beautiful feeling," Wilson said. "There aren't too many teams that have four of the top players in the conference. It's a great feeling to just be playing with those guys."

Both Wilson and Cox talked this week about how much it meant to them to help the Terps qualify for their third straight New Year's bowl game, something that's never happened before at Maryland. Cox and Wilson, who were recruited by former Terps coach Ron Vanderlinden, didn't have a lot of fun during 2000, when Maryland won just five games, but Wilson never imagined it would continue.

"All I've ever known is winning," said Wilson, who played at DeMatha High School. "That first year was tough, but it never dawned on me that it [might continue] because I just expected to win."

Wilson was selected as one of Maryland's three team captains for tomorrow's game against Wake Forest.

Terps coach Ralph Friedgen has done his best to avoid Gator Bowl talk this week for fear that it would be a distraction while the team prepares for Wake Forest. But Friedgen did take time to reminisce about 1975 and the last time Maryland played in the Gator Bowl.

At the time, Friedgen was a young assistant coach at The Citadel, and he had not been able to attend many Maryland games since graduation. When the Terps earned a Gator Bowl invitation to play against Florida, he and his wife, Gloria, decided to drive down to Jacksonville from South Carolina. They watched as Maryland held on for a 13-0 win.

"I remember sitting in the stands in the pouring rain," Friedgen said. "As an alumnus, I never got to go to bowl games when I was playing, so my wife and I drove down and celebrated afterward."

NOTES: Even if Josh Allen (sprained ankle) is able to play, Friedgen said Bruce Perry will start against the Demon Deacons. ... Maryland held just a brief practice yesterday, as Friedgen gave most of his out-of-state players the day off.

Next for Terps

Matchup: Maryland (8-3, 5-2) vs. Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4)

Site: Groves Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C.

When: Tomorrow, 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 8

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