By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2008
Davin Meggett never anticipated such an adverse situation so early in his career at Maryland. After being thrown into it "cold turkey," his palms moistened, his stomach quivered and he questioned whether he might embarrass himself in front of an audience.
The toughest part of Meggett's freshman season had nothing to do with entering a football game late in the fourth quarter Oct. 25 and hauling in a 31-yard reception in the final minute to help set up a game-winning field goal on this season's most memorable drive. Meggett's agitation instead stems from the mere thought of the syllabus for his toughest class: women's literature.
"Female slavery? What?" Meggett said. "Female slavery after slavery, or something like that. It's awkward. I'm more nervous for that class than I am on the football field. Football is not hard. People try to make it seem hard."
Just two months into his college career, Meggett has impressed coaches as much with his running ability as with the calm demeanor he maintains regardless of the on-field predicament. For that reason, and because of his late-game performance against North Carolina State, coaches have shown little concern about possibly starting Meggett at Virginia Tech on Thursday in place of Da'Rel Scott, who is questionable because of a shoulder injury.
"For a freshman, he has done an outstanding job," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said of Meggett, who has averaged 5.3 yards on 50 carries.
When told of his coach's evaluation, Meggett said: "I guess." He is reluctant to pat himself on the back or get too excited about his final-drive performance in the 27-24 victory over the Wolfpack.
Meggett has never carried the ball more than 13 times in a college game, and Scott, when healthy, has been impressive. But teammates said they have no qualms about Meggett possibly getting the bulk of carries against Virginia Tech.
"There is no drop-off when Meggett gets the ball," offensive lineman Dane Randolph said.
Part of the reason, teammates said, is because Meggett's personality remains steady through on-field circumstances and off-the-field attention. Consider Meggett's recent visit to Friedgen's office.
"I say, 'So what's up?' figuring there is a problem," Friedgen said. "He says, 'Nothing, I just haven't come by in awhile, Coach, and just thought I would see how you were doing.' To put a true freshman in that situation against [N.C. State], that is a pretty incredible job to handle that. He said he wasn't even nervous."
Meggett was not nervous, but he was cold. He had not carried the ball since the second quarter, and the driving rainstorm did not exactly help him keep loose on the sideline.
"Usually you put a true freshman in for a game winning situation, he's going to be like, 'Oh, my God, I'm going to kill myself,' " Meggett said. "I had no type of feeling like that. I was just out there. I was having fun."
When Meggett ran onto the field, Scott was being helped off it with less than four minutes remaining. Scott offered a parting gesture, head-butting Meggett and telling him, "Keep it going. You've got it. Let's win this."
"I said, 'Okay, yes, sir,' " Meggett said. "I was still thinking, 'I am cold and I've got to get warm.' "
Meggett said histrionics don't motivate him. He remains even-keeled and tries not to over-think the game. The thought he kept repeating was: Hold on to the slippery football. Three consecutive carries gobbled up 18 yards and put Maryland on its 38-yard line in a tie game.
Six plays later, the Terrapins faced a critical third and 10 from the N.C. State 35. When quarterback Chris Turner relayed the play, a double screen, Meggett felt the ball would come to him if the defensive end rushed Turner.
When Turner lobbed the ball over the oncoming lineman, two thoughts entered Meggett's mind: catch and secure. After the catch, Meggett raced 31 yards to the Wolfpack 4 with 28 seconds left.
Obi Egekeze's 20-yard field goal with six seconds remaining ensured a victory that kept the Terrapins in contention for the ACC's Atlantic Division title.
If Meggett starts against Virginia Tech, he said he would keep the same tempered attitude, adding: "Just play ball. Isn't any different from playing ball when you were young, when you were in middle or high school. It's real simple."
As for reading "Beloved" and discussing other classics in women's literature?
"Difficult," Meggett said, sighing. "Too many perspectives, too many ideologies. Too much stuff. I just have to get through it."