Maryland defensive lineman Andre Monroe embraces change, consistency


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

This summer, sweating inside Byrd Stadium following another preseason practice, Maryland defensive lineman Andre Monroe gave himself two goals. First, when his football career ends, he wants to become a music producer. Second, while his football career continues, he wants to become a “fireball.”

His definition was somewhat circular. Becoming a fireball, he said then, means being a fireball. But through six games playing in a reserve role, Monroe has been the defensive line’s most consistent pass-rusher. He has made just eight tackles this season, which ranks 16th on the team, but seven of those have caused opposing players to lose yardage, and 3.5 of those were sacks.

“I feel like I’ve been a fireball, but not as consistent as I want to be,” Monroe said Tuesday. “That’s something I still have to work on. Obviously everyone has things they still need to work on. That’s something I need to stay true to. Consistently.”

Aside from winning games and pressuring the quarterback, Monroe sets one tangible goal for himself: Each game, he wants to accumulate at least one statistic, whether a tackle or a sack. The 5-foot-11 junior failed against West Virginia, but has achieved that goal in each of Maryland’s other games.

When graduate student transfer Zeke Riser returned from an ankle injury, Coach Randy Edsall moved Monroe to nose tackle, sliding him inside on Maryland’s 3-4 scheme to accommodate Riser on the edge. Monroe willingly accepted it, but made just one tackle on Saturday against Virginia.

“The team needed me to do that move, so I’m willing to do whatever the team needs me to do to be successful,” he said. “Honestly it doesn’t matter. I just like to play football, and that’s that. I actually feel comfortable inside, but again like I said before, I’m comfortable as long as I’m on the field, making plays.

“It varies week to week. From the time I started playing football, I’ve been inside the trenches, all the way up until last year. So even when we had the 2-10 season, I was inside as well. I’ve played outside in the past, too, but I like to call inside home.”

Except for last season. A summer knee injury sidelined Monroe for the entire year. At first, he tried to stay positive, to uplift his teammates even while fighting his own medical battles. But it was the only time Monroe had ever missed a full season of football, and he didn’t know what to expect.

Coaches and teammates guided him through with stories of their own recoveries, but his father, who overcame a hernia during his own college career, helped the most. “It definitely is a long process,” he said this week, but he emerged feeling smarter and more mature.

“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” Monroe said. “I still have some steps to take forward, like I said before, but I definitely feel like I’ve come a long way, gotten wiser. Also the injury made me hungrier to play the game.”

As he said this, a fresh bag of McDonald’s sat steaming by his feet. Monroe bought it at the student union after class, and Gossett Team House now smelled like French fries. He offered a reporter a bite and laughed. Then he stood up, asked a media relations member if that was all they needed and went off to change before an afternoon team meeting, another day in the life of a fireball.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 17, 2013