When he was in fifth grade, Tim Downs arrived at an important life decision: he would play football at
Growing up in Latrobe, Pa., Downs idolized Kyle Schmitt, an offensive lineman at Derry Area High School who had accepted a football scholarship to play for the Terps. Downs' reaction to the news of Schmitt's Maryland commitment was simple.
"I remember telling my dad that, 'I'm going to go to Maryland. I bet you $100.'"
Downs eventually made good on his promise. He starred for Derry High years later at linebacker and fullback, in addition to learning to be a long snapper. By the time it was time for Downs to apply to college, Schmitt was a graduate assistant with the Terps. Downs sent his highlight tape in, was accepted to Maryland and joined the Terps as a walk-on. After redshirting his freshman year and serving as a backup in 2008, Downs won the long-snapping job and appeared in 37 games for Maryland over the next three seasons.
Downs, who graduated from Maryland in December with a history degree and is living in Tyson's Corner, spoke to The Sun recently about his Terps career and life after college.
You came to Maryland without a scholarship. Where do you think you would've ended up if you didn't go the walk-on route with the Terps?
If it wasn’t for Maryland, I probably would’ve ended up at IUP –
Once you were at school and on the team, was it kind of surreal?
It was different, especially my first year. It was very eye-opening. You go from high school where you're one of the bigger kids, then you go to a team where you're not exactly the most talented or the biggest of the strongest. You go from playing, I don't know, in front of maybe 1,000 people to just running out of that tunnel in a stadium in front of 50, 60, 70,000 people every week. It was cool and I didn't really know what I was doing. I was almost like in this dream world my whole freshman year, like 'Holy crap, I'm playing Division I football,' even though I was redshirting. I think it was one of the more pivotal years of my whole college career.
You redshirted your freshman year and were a backup the following season. When you won the job as a redshirt sophomore and prepared for your first game, what was going through your head?
It was almost like I [knew I] was ready. That surreal feeling really didn’t happen until my first actual game that I started. It was at Cal in Berkeley in front of 70,000 people on
What was the top highlight of your Maryland career?
There were a few throughout my whole five years. As a freshman, my first true big game I was a part of, I really remember the
Do you have any regrets about how your career played out?
I’ve only been done with Maryland football for three months now, but I wish I could get one more year. We were 2-10 this past season, but we were not a 2-10 team. Same thing goes for 2009. We went 2-10, but we weren’t a 2-10 team and I certainly would do anything to get those years back. But the 2010 season, when we went to the
The coaching transition appeared rocky from an outsider's perspective. How was it for you and what are your feelings toward
Well first, I think with the whole coaching transition, in my five years I had four special teams coaches. That was just – I don't think anyone in college football can imagine that. As far as playing for Coach Friedgen or Coach Edsall, respectively, honestly my first four years with Coach Friedgen were great. They were two very different styles of coaches. But Coach Edsall and Coach Friedgen are both very good men. I'm very honored to have played for both of them. Personally, I have more of a personal relationship with Coach Edsall. But as far as Coach Friedgen, he was great for the four years I was there and obviously his time spent at Maryland. It was great to play for him and for Coach Edsall. It was great to be a part of this team. I know the direction he has the team headed. I wish I could play another year for him. Sometimes the first year for a new coach is rocky, no matter where you go. Once he gets everything established with his system, everything will take off. I got one year with it, but I definitely learned a lot during the season and I learned a lot of real life lessons. My perspective on life was kind of changed as far as understanding the correlation between hard work off the field no matter what. It's not just about football on the field. Everything Coach Edsall stands for is great. Same with Coach Friedgen. Both are very great guys and great football coaches.
What have you been doing since then?
Since graduating I’ve been training a lot. I did the
What kind of feedback have you heard from your agent in terms of your NFL prospects?
Basically, my agent and I have talked about it and Coach Edsall and I have talked. Coach Edsall told me that I'm good enough to play in the NFL, and I'm young. So why not do that when you're young? Five years from now I'll look back and [won't have any regrets]. I understand the reality of the NFL as far as long snappers. There are only 32 of them; each team has one. It's extremely difficult to crack an NFL roster and get a tryout. But I'm looking and hoping that I've done well enough in showing my talent to scouts. My agent told me there are teams interested, and you just have to hope that scouts from the other end of the country haven't seen anybody better than me. If everything works out, it'll probably the night of the draft or the week after when I should hear something.
Looking back on your time at Maryland, what was the best part about being on the team?