Frankfort (W.Va.) rising senior quarterback Gage Shaffer arrived in College Park for a Maryland football camp Saturday, neither with an invitation nor a scholarship offer from any other school.
But just showing up has long been at the core of Shaffer’s development in high school. In the fifth game of his freshman season, the lanky Shaffer was standing idle on the sideline while his team trailed, when his coach, Kevin Whiteman, turned to him and said, “What do you think, buddy? You want to go in?”
“Definitely. I want to go in,” Shaffer replied, before running onto the field. He has been the school’s starting quarterback ever since.
And now, after boldly showing up and impressing Maryland’s staff Saturday, he has a college football future. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Shaffer committed late Saturday just hours after being offered by the Terps, joining Fort Hill (Cumberland, Md.) running back Ty Johnson as the newest recruits to commit over the weekend.
“I was just there to get a good workout, show what I had … you can never expect anything when you go to those things. So I just went there and did what I needed to do,” said Shaffer, who had also been in contact with West Virginia and Delaware. “I think I have a strong arm, I’m accurate. I think that I can make plays with my legs when I need to … I expect I’ll help them win a lot of games.”
Shaffer threw for nearly 1,100 yards as a junior – he hit his growth spurt and grew about five inches after his freshman season – and Whiteman believes Shaffer’s arm strength and awareness in the pocket will translate to the next level. Still, he didn’t expect Saturday to go down like it did.
“It was shocking, just the way it all went down,” Whiteman said. “It was just kind of a shock to me. Just in my experience as a head coach, he’s my first Division I player … it was kind of a proud moment for me to have one of my players be able to make that kind of accomplishment.”
The 5-foot-10, 173-pound Johnson, who as a junior helped lead Fort Hill to the Maryland 1A state title last fall, could be an immediate asset when he arrives in College Park next year. He lent his speed to both sides of the ball – but flourished at running back, rushing for over 1,200 yards and averaging 17.4 yards per carry.
Johnson has consistently hit 4.4-second marks in his 40-yard dash runs throughout the year, said Fort Hill Coach Todd Appel, and he did it again during a test run at Maryland’s prospect camp on Sunday. That caught the eye of the Terps’ staff, and Maryland Coach Randy Edsall eventually offered Johnson in the middle of the camp.
“I bursted into tears when he gave me that offer. It’s been a dream of mine to be able to go to a school like that,” Johnson said. “Coach Edsall made it a reality for me. I’m so thankful for that.”
Johnson committed a few hours later, he said. He had one other offer – from Albany – but he bookended a banner weekend for the Cumberland area by following Shaffer’s pledge.
“I’ve competed against [Shaffer] in 7-on-7 the past two years…it didn’t surprise me at all,” Johnson said. “Not many coaches come to this area. For Gage and I to be able to accomplish this, this not only benefits us, but it benefits other players that have a great talent in this area that get overlooked because of where we’re at.”