new ending

Quarterback Steffy tries to rewrite the finish to his career with Terps

college football maryland preview

August 28, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

COLLEGE PARK - It was a savage hit, even by major college football standards. Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged flung himself at Jordan Steffy, crashing into the Maryland quarterback last season with an unnerving, helmet-to-helmet crack.

Steffy, who walked haltingly up the locker-room stairs and remained forgetful and occasionally disoriented for several weeks after suffering a concussion in the Sept. 29 game, was set to graduate in the spring, and his once-promising career seemed all but over.

But as he contemplated his future, Steffy became determined that this wasn't going to be the last hit he took on a football field. He wasn't ready for his career to end. At least not like that.

So, after obtaining the requisite medical clearances, Steffy - who had lost the quarterback job to Chris Turner - passed up several promising job opportunities and enrolled in Maryland's real estate-development graduate program.

Then, last spring, he decided to use his final year of eligibility - he had redshirted his sophomore season - to try to write a new ending to his football story.

"It was important for me to finish this chapter of my life," Steffy said in an interview at the football complex as he iced his right arm after a recent practice.

Offensive coordinator James Franklin said he understands Steffy's motivation perfectly. "It's like all of us. We're all kind of hopeless romantics who want the story to end well. We've all been programmed that way from TV and movies. Everybody wants the happy ending."

Even after winning the starting job in preseason camp, Steffy knows his happy ending isn't guaranteed. Many fans have aligned with multidimensional quarterback Josh Portis or with Turner, who started last season's final eight games and completed 63.5 percent of his passes as the Terrapins went 3-5.

"I didn't give him the job. He earned it," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Steffy. "When he graduated, he could have said, 'See you later.' But he didn't. He never stopped working, he never sulked, he never moaned."

Some fans and friends worry about Steffy's multiple concussions. His biggest fan - his mother, Shari Steffy - said she has consulted with a doctor she trusts and is comfortable her son is healthy enough to play.

But she didn't always feel that way.

Jordan Steffy was cleared to play toward the end of last season, getting into games briefly against Florida State and North Carolina State. His mother, who runs a day-care center in Lancaster County, Pa., and travels to games with relatives in the family's sport utility vehicle, did not approve.

"I felt very strongly he should not play at the end of last year," she said. "He had headaches for quite a while and short-term memory loss. Football is a game, and that's his health."

But this season is different, she said.

"He knows he has talent, and I don't mean in an arrogant way," she said. "It was obviously frustrating for him to end the season with a concussion that way."

The Atlantic Coast Conference ruled that the hit from Lefeged should have been flagged. Two weeks after the game, Lefeged hit Syracuse quarterback Andrew Robinson (Calvert Hall) high and caused a fumble. The Syracuse coach called the hit "vicious" and said the officials should have called a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet collision.

The hit on Robinson frustrated Steffy even more, he said. Left unsaid is that the hits - the one he endured and the one suffered by his Syracuse counterpart - seemed to motivate him.

"Right before spring ball, I said, 'OK, listen, I'm going to go for this thing,' " Steffy said. "And I knew that the odds were stacked up against me even to play. Chris had finished the year and Josh was coming back. But I've always loved the competition part of things. Everything I do, I like to finish it."

Steffy was named the starter in a meeting with Franklin and the other quarterbacks. He had fared well according to the statistics posted daily in the locker room. "It has completion percentage, attempts, plays of 16 yards and more, interceptions, touchdowns. It has everything," Steffy said.

Maryland's quarterbacks have distinct personalities. Coaches said at the beginning of preseason workouts that Turner needs to prepare better, Steffy is a perfectionist who needs to relax, and Portis needs to gain a better grasp of plays and details.

"Jordan wants to do so well and is probably more detailed and probably prepares better than the rest of the guys," Franklin said on Terrapins Rising, the reality show created by the athletic department that chronicled spring practices. "But he's so hard on himself and wants to be perfect all the time that he tightens up."

Franklin said this week that he has faith in Steffy and hopes and believes the quarterback will be successful early.

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