No place like Homewood

Hopkins' Triplin content with balance of sports, school after exploring transfer

September 01, 2006|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Anthony Triplin's fingerprints have been all over the football team at Johns Hopkins the past three years: the eye-opening catches, the effervescent personality, the inborn leadership.

The muddy footprints are right there in plain sight, too. They're the ones he left his sophomore year, when he visited Hawaii and Vanderbilt in search of a Division I-A program to join - the ones he made when he quit the lacrosse team and left the football team in limbo.

Triplin made a commitment as a junior at Gilman to play both sports at Hopkins. Second thoughts followed when he had early football success at Homewood. Doubts ended - after some serious soul searching - with confirmation that he made the right choice the first time.

"I have it all here," he said. "I'm at a great school. I'm right around the corner from my family. Everybody I know can watch me play. [There's Hopkins'] education, it's one of the top schools in the nation."

Triplin's journey of self-discovery was all the richer for its twists and turns. A year ago, he was Offensive Player of the Year in the Centennial Conference - as a wide receiver - while leading the Blue Jays to their fourth straight conference title and first NCAA Division III playoff game.

Better than that, he became the person Hopkins coach Jim Margraff thought he could be.

"In the long run, it's become a huge positive for us as a team and him personally," Margraff said. "Because not only has it helped him athletically, but now he's focused and he's doing things right in the classroom. ... I think that process probably changed him in many more ways than football."

At his mother's insistence, Triplin went to Hopkins with academics-first, sports-second priorities. She made that clear during his 13 years in the Gilman system. "I said, `We're here, No. 1, for academics,'" Von Triplin, a single parent, remembers telling him.

But she also remembers when her son would take friends over to Homewood Field to watch Hopkins play. She saw him blossom at Gilman. And she still has that baby picture of Anthony, the one with a football tucked in his arm.

So she wasn't terribly surprised when the lure of playing for a Division I-A program pulled him from the prescribed path. It happened when Triplin saw two of his closest friends from Gilman's undefeated team in 2002, Ambrose Wooden and Victor Abiamiri, find success at Notre Dame. He figured if they could star at Notre Dame, he could find a place in Division I-A.

Stan White, one of Triplin's coaches at Gilman and a former NFL linebacker, agreed. He was aware of the flirtations with both Vanderbilt and Hawaii. He could appreciate interest in a Southeastern Conference school, but he didn't understand the attraction of Hawaii.

"I was very much against him going to Hawaii," White said. "I told him, `What is a degree from Hawaii going to do for you? A Hopkins degree can do everything for you.'

"Both times, I was under the impression he was going. At the last minute, he didn't go. I was never disappointed he didn't go."

Triplin took the unusual step of visiting Vanderbilt on a recruiting trip during a bye week his sophomore season. The trip, Margraff said, "threw our team into a tizzy."

Hopkins still managed to squeeze into a five-way tie for the conference title. With Triplin still undecided at spring practice, Margraff said he couldn't practice with the team until he made up his mind. "It was a matter of what was best for our team at that point," the coach said.

That suspension - a low point, in Triplin's mind - and a phone call Margraff made in the offseason helped clear the road back to Hopkins.

Triplin was vacationing in Colorado when Margraff phoned to see which way he was leaning.

"That conversation made me feel if I wanted to come back, I had a home, the door wasn't closed," Triplin said.

Soon after, Triplin called Margraff with his decision.

"I said, `If you allow me to come back, I'm going to work harder and prove to you I'm sorry and do whatever I can to be the best player I can be,'" Triplin said. "And I came back that August for training camp eating humble pie, keeping quiet and trying to regain the respect of the team and coaches."

The decision came down to academics, after all.

"I grew up and got my priorities straight," said Triplin, 22, a sociology major with a business minor. "I finally realized that in the grand scheme of things, football's not first. It's education, academics, family. Football is very, very high on my list, but it's not number one."

Committed and dedicated, Triplin caught 77 passes last season for 809 yards and three touchdowns. He finished one catch shy of Bill Stromberg's single-season school record of 78. Triplin needs 82 this year to break Stromberg's career record of 258.

"You could tell because he put on some weight and finally started working out," said Hopkins wide receiver Corey Sattler of the change in Triplin, now 6 feet and 190 pounds. "He shied away from the weight room before. This year, he's going to be huge."

"He's just flipped it 180 degrees," said Margraff, whose Blue Jays open the season tomorrow at home against Rochester. "He's been fantastic."

Von Triplin had the final word.

"He has really made a tremendous change in his life," she said. "I have to give it to [Hopkins]. They molded him well."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW WEEK

Online -- For earlier stories in The Sun's week of college football previews, go to www.baltimoresun.com/sports/college/football/.

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