Lattimore makes run with Terps

Switching from receiver, he benefits from Hargrave

College Football

August 18, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - In his office two years ago, Ralph Friedgen looked Ray Lewis in the eye and asked him to be brutally honest.

Give it to me straight, Friedgen said. Is Keon Lattimore, your little brother, going to the University of Miami? Because if he is, I'd prefer not to waste my time recruiting him.

Yeah coach, Lewis said, he's going to Miami.

Friedgen laughs when he thinks about it now, especially when he looks across the practice field and sees Lattimore zipping past a defender - in a Terps uniform. Lewis' immediate answer had to be Miami, Friedgen realized. After all, once a Hurricane, always a Hurricane.

"After that Ray said, `No, no, no, we're still interested in [Maryland], Coach,'" Friedgen said. "It's funny, we were recruiting Keon as a receiver, and Ray said, `No, coach, he's going to be a running back.' At the time, I didn't think so, but I didn't know he was going to grow up and be 220 pounds. Ray [knew it] right from the beginning."

What Friedgen did know was that Lattimore, then a star receiver at Mount St. Joseph, was the kind of athlete who could make a big impact if he got a football in his hands. Miami showed interest in Lattimore, but wanted him as a defensive back, not as a skill-position player. That turned out to be a major factor in Lattimore's decision to be a Terp, and already this preseason, he's shown Friedgen his instincts were correct.

"He's broken a couple of long runs, and he has a very quick move laterally," Friedgen said, admitting he's intrigued by the idea of playing Lattimore this season, even if it means a position switch. "I think he's got a chance to be a pretty exciting running back once he learns some things."

Outside of football, Lattimore has already learned a lot over the past year. Though he originally committed to play for Maryland in 2003, his SAT scores weren't high enough to gain admission, and it put his future with the Terps in doubt. Lattimore decided to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., instead of going to another college, a decision that turned out to be a major wakeup call. It meant getting up at 6 a.m. every day, wearing a uniform, marching, drilling, studying constantly and having something to do each minute, from sunrise to sunset.

"I struggled," Lattimore said. "I really struggled. I talked to my mom all the time on the phone and we read each other Bible verses and just prayed. ... But I need to be structured. I was the type of person who was just used to doing what I wanted to do. I guess it's because I was kind of the man at my high school. It was hard being on somebody else's time, on somebody else's schedule, but you realize that if this is your last opportunity, of course you'll get it done."

Lattimore played tailback on the Hargrave football team, rushing for 425 yards and four touchdowns on a squad that went 8-1. He also spent plenty of time in the weight room. When he showed up at Maryland this fall, with his academics in order, it was clear he had benefited from the experience. Lattimore had added 25 pounds to his body, but was still just as fast.

"I'm sure it helped him," Friedgen said of Lattimore's decision to attend Hargrave. "He's another year older, and it's another year of good competition. He's not just a high school senior. He's a more mature kid. "

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