On Monday night, Mike Madaras called his father, Dave, to discuss the future. He had been missing class and arriving late to meetings for the Maryland football team. The red flags Dave noticed over the past several months were now raised to full mast. “Dad,” Dave remembers him saying, sensing the weight in his voice over the phone. “I really, really don’t want to be here right now.”
Hearing this was hard for Dave. He raised his oldest son on football, coaching Mike in the I-70 League starting at age 7. But he also knew what his son was feeling. After all, bad grades once got Dave’s scholarship revoked at Division II Delta State in Mississippi some three decades ago when he, too, was a strong, burly, young offensive lineman with plenty of potential but bigger issues at hand.
“I think maybe one of the things he was trying to get at was, ‘Hey, if something happens and I can’t keep playing here, well Dad will understand because the same thing happened to him,’ ” Dave said Tuesday in a telephone interview, less than an hour after Maryland announced that his son would both leave the program and withdraw from the university because of personal reasons.
“It’s been kind of rumbling for a bit. I think his behavior when he got suspended earlier was probably one of his ways to send a signal, like, ‘Hey, I’m struggling here.’ I get it. You know what, I get it completely because I screwed up when I had a scholarship in college. I probably should have never told him the story, because he wants to be like his dad.”
The decision had been festering for months, Dave said. This summer, the university suspended Mike for two weeks for violating its code of conduct. The sophomore starting left tackle arrived late for study hall and failed to attend class, earning 6 a.m. disciplinary punishment from the Terrapins. Dave knew the struggles his son was feeling, and each time tried to pump him up.
Once a four-star recruit selected for the Under Armour all-American game who once held scholarship offers to Michigan, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and others, Mike had made 16 straight college starts protecting the blind side. Maybe, Dave reasoned, a pep talk would straighten Mike out. “Let’s get it together,” he would say. “Let’s work on this.”
“Really, truly I think those were little band-aids on something bigger,” Dave said.
So Dave took Mike out on Sunday night. They talked things over, just like Mike did with Coach Randy Edsall on Tuesday morning when he broke the news of his impending departure. Afterwards, Mike again called his father. “He felt like the weight of the world was lifted off him,” Dave said.
Deep inside, Dave hopes his son takes the time he needs, regains some perspective and maybe, just maybe, considers playing football again. Mike told Dave he wants to sit down and figure out the next step. After Dave left Delta State, he joined the Marines and later served on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, where he survived a suicide bombing on Oct. 23, 1983. He anticipates Mike getting a job “before long.”
Regardless, Dave knows a decision like this hurts. Mike Madaras’s departure leaves Maryland without a starting left tackle with four games left in the season. But he also knows that decisions like these supersede football, and even college. As Mike told Dave of his decision Monday night, Dave interrupted him. “Hey, we’re good,” he said.
“He’s my son,” Dave said. “I don’t worship the god of football. He’s my son. I’ll love him no matter what, and I’ll stick by him and I’ll support him and I’ll help him get his act together and help him do what he wants to do in life. Sure, deep inside of me, do I hope he gets away from it and say I want to play again? That’d be pretty decent if he does.
“Hey, I wish everything had worked out right and he was still there playing football in college. That’d be the ideal world and he’s not. Things happen in the world. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to do. So what do you do, you adjust to the situation and make the best of what you’re going to do. That’s what I’m doing right now. He needs support right now. He doesn’t need a kick in the [rear].”