One week ago, Maryland’s Perry Hills completed morning practice during two-a-days at training camp without the slightest inclination of how dramatically his football life was about to change.
Then in the afternoon session, during a non-contact two-minute drill at Byrd Stadium, Brown burst through the line of scrimmage and planted his right leg to cut. The junior’s knee buckled, and when an MRI exam the next morning revealed a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, Hills ascended to first string without having taken a college snap.
“That was always my goal,” Hills said of starting. “That’s always been my mind-set of, ‘Hey, I don’t want to go there and be the backup or be redshirted.’ I’ve always looked at it as I want to be the starter and need to work toward that.”
In the days following Brown’s injury, Hills immersed himself in the playbook with extra zeal, knowing he was the prohibitive favorite to open the season at quarterback on Sept. 1 against William & Mary.
On the field, Hills caught the attention of teammates by directing the huddle as if he expected to be the offensive centerpiece despite his lack of experience. It was the same force of personality that in part convinced his high school coach to promote Hills to starting quarterback midway through his sophomore season at Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic.
The Vikings were 3-2 at the time and in jeopardy of failing to qualify for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs. They didn’t lose again in the regular season once Hills became the starter, advancing to the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals after winning five in a row.
Hills threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns in that stretch and completed 33 of 63 passes. The following season, Hills led Central Catholic, which claims Dan Marino and Marc Bulger as alums, to an 11-1 record and passed for 1,582 yards with 10 touchdowns.
“I’ve been very impressed with just how he’s handled himself and the poise and the composure and the command that he’s handling that first offense with,” Maryland Coach Randy Edsall said. “Here’s a guy that’s a freshman, and he’s telling those guys, ‘C’mon let’s go. Get set. Get down.’ All those things.”
Hills reinforced his status as the No. 1 quarterback on Saturday in the second scrimmage of Terrapins training camp, which coincided with fan appreciation day at Byrd Stadium. Roughly 1,000 Maryland supporters witnessed Hills lead three scoring drives, including capping his first with a 16-yard touchdown run.
As encouraging, according to Edsall, was the decision-making, as Hills continues to master first-year offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s pro-style offense. Hills (6 feet 3, 205 pounds) did not turn over the ball, and rather than force a pass into tight coverage downfield, he either tucked the ball and ran or threw it away.
“I have not seen him get rattled,” said Edsall, who officially named Hills as the starter on Tuesday morning. “He’s one of those guys that he just goes and he prepares very well. He’s always sitting in that film room studying and trying to do exactly what Mike wants him to do. When you do that, you give yourself an opportunity to be successful.”