Elvis Dennah has always been filled with hometown pride. For as long as the Lanham native can remember, he has embraced his Maryland roots and cheered on “every home team – Redskins, Washington Wizards [and] Maryland.”
So when Dennah had a chance last week to audition for the Terps, the Annapolis Area Christian School linebacker-defensive end didn’t take the opportunity to potentially play for his hometown team lightly.
“I already had the mindset like, man, I just want to come blow this thing out the water, run fast, perform and just show the Maryland coaches what I got,” Dennah said. “Going into the camp, I was pretty underrated. I just had to make a name for myself.”
It didn’t take long for Dennah to accomplish that goal. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound player came to College Park as a two-star prospect with no offers; but he left Maryland with his first scholarship. On Saturday, Dennah accepted the Terps’ offer.
“It feels good, man. I’m real comfortable,” Dennah said. “I feel Maryland is the place for me to be.”
Ending up at Maryland became more realistic for Dennah after his sophomore year, when he transferred from DuVal High to AACS. Eagles coach Ken Lucas – no stranger to coaching DI prospects dating back to his days at Gonzaga (D.C.) – knew he could have something special to work with in Dennah.
“I felt he was talented and felt he was capable. I wasn’t certain at the time how fast he would develop,” Lucas said. “I knew the potential was there early on in those first few days. He has worked hard to get himself into shape, obviously at this point to be recruited by a Division I school. He’s done a great job. He has a very good work ethic. I think he’s been determined.”
Dennah’s selflessness played a crucial role in AACS winning the 2011 MIAA B Conference championship. Though the future Terp will play safety in college, Lucas needed him to rush the passer as a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive end.
“He was a D-end in some cases, more of an outside linebacker in terms of responsibilities and roles, which allowed him to” make plays, Lucas said. “Some guys are strictly D-ends and some are strictly outside linebackers. He’s a tweener, and I say that in a positive way. He was able to give us the best of both positions. Physically, he was big enough to play up front and also athletic enough to come off the edge and drop into coverage.”
Dennah, who also played some wide receiver for the Eagles, said he didn’t mind his high school role a bit. When it came to his recruitment, the versatility he displayed with AACS might have even given him a leg up on the competition. Dennah accepted the fact that he’d have to prove to the Maryland coaches that he could play safety, and that he was fast enough.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall “told me to just come to camp and blow it out the water as far as my 40 times, drills and stuff,” Dennah said. “They had me running [the 40] multiple times, [and I was] still clocking the same thing. I ran the 40 [in around 4.46] about four times. … It was no sweat because I knew I was comfortable.”
After the Maryland staff saw Dennah’s transcripts a day or two later, an offer was extended. Dennah discussed the Terps’ offer with his friends and family, and a couple days later called Edsall back to let him know that he “wanted to be a Terp.”
“I’m getting love from my friends, my family. So everyone’s really excited for me,” he said. “They just want to see me be successful on the next level. Plus, I get to stay home, where I get that support. It’s a good thing.”
The next couple months for Dennah will be filled with workouts with his trainer and weight-lifting sessions. He’ll work on his “DB skills,” while also preparing for his senior season as a pass rusher. Whatever is asked of Dennah on the football field, he’ll be happy to do. That won’t change when he suits up for Maryland in 2013.
“I know a lot of kids go to college and then have no dedication,” Dennah said. “I just want to let Maryland fans, players and coaches know that I’m fully dedicated to the Maryland program.”