Maryland’s Sal Conaboy marshals up energy to return at center

August 15, 2013

Walking through the halls of the U.S. Marshals Service district office in Greenbelt this summer, carrying paperwork or files or whatever intern duties he had that day, Sal Conaboy felt much like he did in the Maryland football team’s locker room.

“Those guys in the office, it’s pretty similar to my teammates,” the junior center said. “Everyone joked around. A little trash talk, busting each other and everything. I fit right in. Definitely different than your run-of-the-mill internship.”

Conaboy doesn’t exactly come across as the trash-talking type, but he thrived in the unpaid internship. The Pennsylvania native’s grandfather was a federal judge in Scranton, and the Conaboy family often gathered at the courthouse on holidays to watch the annual parades march past. It was there, peering out the window of his grandfather’s chambers, that Conaboy heard stories about the U.S. Marshals and aspired to work with them.

The job, a 24-hour-a-week gig filing documents and filling out paperwork, had its perks, too. Sometimes, the Marshals allowed Conaboy to tag along in court, or brought him into the cellblock to watch prisoner processing. Once, they took him to “Range Day.” He humped around the shooting range, picking up shells, and even received lessons from the Marshals themselves.

“Most days it wasn’t too hard to go there for the day, because it was fun,” Conaboy said. “But it was different. Instead of just hanging out in the summer then working out, actually going to work and coming back.”

By the afternoons, even before driving back to College Park for daily workouts with the football team, Conaboy was exhausted. He will start at center this season, captaining the offensive line one year after Evan Mulrooney usurped his job for five games. That stretch began with Conaboy leaving the Virginia game with an ankle injury.

“I think we always push each other,” Conaboy said. “I think that’s a good thing to have. If you didn’t have a backup to push you, you might be complacent, which isn’t a good thing. It’s always in the back of my head. It helps push me.”

Mulrooney, who before Conaboy’s injury had played just one career snap, earned valuable experience against ACC juggernauts Clemson and Florida State, but Conaboy healed enough to start the season finale against North Carolina. That propelled him into this spring, where he and Mulrooney were listed as co-backups.

“It gave me the confidence that I needed going into the offseason,” Conaboy said. “Just to know that the coaches still had confidence in me. It was definitely good to have.”

When a hip injury sidelined Mulrooney, the door opened for Conaboy to regain his job.

“Sal just has played well,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “I think he took the bull by the horns, so to speak. Got stronger over the summer, got really good with his checks and making the calls for the offensive line. I think he separated himself from Evan based on the hard work. Not that Evan didn’t work hard, but Sal probably did a little more, executing things that’s allowed him to be the starter.”

Now he’s the center on an oft-scrutinized line that allowed an ACC-high 39 sacks last season, one charged with supporting a host of offensive playmakers. They know that a quiet offensive line, one removed from the headlines, means a stable, successful group.

“We’re better,” Conaboy said. “I think we really worked hard in the offseason. I think it’s confidence. We’re gaining a lot of confidence throughout camp, and we have gained a lot of confidence throughout the offseason. That’s the main thing.”

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