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Superlatives for a Happy 125th

Terp Celebrates Football History

By Liam Farrell


It’s been 125 years since students at Maryland Agricultural College suited up and inaugurated the school’s football program with a game against St. John’s College.

Although the Aggies didn’t win that day, the game was the beginning of a winning tradition for the school that became the University of Maryland and the team that became the Terrapins. Since then, the Terps have collected 11 conference championships, produced 11 consensus All-Americans and racked up 16 first-round draft picks, with 26 bowl game appearances and the 1953 national championship.

To celebrate this anniversary, Terp put together a few superlatives to highlight the moments and memories that have made Saturday afternoons special.


Best Fingertip Catch: It could have all been for naught without the 1896 team. Just three years after the team started, a new commander of cadets, 1st Lieutenant Clough Overton, didn’t think football mixed with the military academy. Described as a “football hater,” Overton scheduled daily supper formation during practice, and the team folded for the 1895 season. The setback was temporary, however, as the team reformed the next year and has played ever since.


Worst in Show: The Terps were groundbreakers early on, taking part in the first commercially televised college football game in October 1940, against the Penn Quakers. But with only two cameras on each 25-yard line, the broadcast on a youthful medium thankfully reached few outside the Philadelphia area. Maryland got thumped, 51-0, so fans in the Old Line State didn’t miss much.


Smartest Fashion Statement: It’s tempting to pick the first appearance of the Pride uniforms in 2011, with helmets to shoes sporting the state flag, as the football program’s most impactful clothing choice. But in 1961, Maryland struck a long-lasting blow for confused sports fans everywhere by becoming the first team to put players’ names on jerseys (demonstrated at a press conference by the generously surnamed end Hank Poniatowski).


Biggest Men on Campus: With an undefeated and untied regular season, the 1953 Maryland squad captured the school’s only national championship in football. Although Maryland would lose to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, the Associated Press and United Press International titles had already been awarded—an early quirk in college football.


Most Honored Guest: The Terps played a game fit for a queen when they beat the UNC Tar Heels in 1957, which was good, because an actual queen was in the crowd. Attending her first-ever American football game, Queen Elizabeth and husband Prince Phillip were among the 45,000 fans watching the Terps upset their ACC foes.


Best Newcomer: Facing down death threats and jeers from the stands, Daryl Hill made history as the first African-American football player in the ACC. Called the “Jackie Robinson of Southern College Football,” he showed tremendous courage when he played the opening game of the 1963 season and shattered the league’s color line.


Destined for Greatness: Legendary QB Boomer Esiason is a prime contender here, but sometimes the defense needs some love as well, and Randy White set a new standard for his position along the defensive line. Known for elite quickness, White took home armfuls of awards following his senior season in 1974 and was a first-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys. He went on to be an all-pro Super Bowl champ and has been inducted into the college and pro football hall of fames.


Most Dramatic Makeover: Things looked pretty dismal at halftime of the 1984 matchup against the Miami Hurricanes, as the Terps found themselves in a 31–0 hole. But led in the second half by backup quarterback Frank Reich, Maryland went on to stage what was then the greatest comeback in college football history, leaving Florida with a 42–40 win. Reich continued his heroics in the NFL, where he continues to hold the top comeback in pro history (a 41–38 Buffalo Bills playoff victory over the Houston Oilers).


Fan Favorite: This one is based on science—well, not science, exactly, but fans themselves chose the 2001 season as the “best moment” in Maryland football history earlier this year. The Terps won the ACC championship and finished the regular season with a 10–1 record, earning an Orange Bowl berth and its best ranking since the 1980s.


Mr. Dependable: One of the best linebackers in Maryland history, E.J. Henderson is the only Terp to ever be named a two-time consensus All-American, in 2001 and 2002. He was also a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and Butkus Award (best linebacker). After ending his college career as MVP of the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl win over Tennessee, Henderson played eight seasons in the NFL.

Special thanks goes to UMD University Archives and Intercollegiate Athletics for the information. Visit for more.

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