Leading up to the Maryland football team's homecoming win over Indiana on Saturday, each position group watched highlights and learned the history of some of the top former players at their respective roles.
The defensive linemen watched tape of Shawne Merriman, who played at Maryland in the early 2000s and was an All-Pro NFL linebacker. The running backs learned about LaMont Jordan, an All-ACC running back in the late 1990s. Some defensive backs observed the play of Will Likely, an All-American punt returner who graduated after last season.
"When you're sitting in a room, whatever your position is, you're sitting there — there's a standard that's been set by those that came before you," coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. "And it's your job to uphold that standard or raise that standard. That's what you do when you enter a program. And our program has had a lot of great players."
Durkin is right in some aspects — Maryland has produced a handful of talented players. Defensive tackle Randy White, quarterback Boomer Esiason, and more recently, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Torrey Smith have succeeded in the NFL following their careers in College Park.
Almost all Maryland alumni can serve as examples of the work ethic it takes to play college football. But overall, have former Maryland teams and coaches set a high on-field standard for their successors? Not really.
Maryland has won just nine bowl games since 1956. The Terps have finished with a winning conference record once in the past 10 years.
Durkin is in the process of resurrecting the program by changing its culture and bringing in top-20 recruiting classes. So while learning about Maryland's history is meaningful before homecoming, it's equally important to focus on the brighter future.
"Learning about the history and the guys that played in the room that you play in and sat in the same seats as you and learning the history behind everything — it's awesome," running back Jake Funk said. "Obviously down the line when I'm gone, there will be other guys doing the same thing."
Ultimately, future players will watch highlight tapes of Maryland's current freshmen. Don't be surprised if more NFL stars come from Maryland in the next 20 years than in the past 125 years.
It's hard to pinpoint particular teams Maryland could celebrate at homecoming. The 1951, 1953 and 1955 teams finished in the top three of the AP poll. Under Jerry Claiborne, the Terps went undefeated in the ACC three straight years in the mid-1970s. In 2001, Ralph Friedgen's Terps won the ACC and lost in the Orange Bowl — an accomplishment that was overshadowed by Maryland men's basketball's NCAA title run a few months later.
If Esiason returned to Maryland Stadium, the fans would give him a rousing ovation as perhaps the most accomplished former Maryland football player.
But Maryland's recent history isn't as pretty. Friedgen was fired in 2010, and the Terps didn't do enough to retain former wide receivers coach James Franklin — who's led Penn State's rebuild — to replace him, instead hiring the widely criticized Randy Edsall.
While the Terps are 10-20 in Big Ten play since moving to the conference in 2014, Durkin hopes blowouts at the hands of perennial national title contenders such as Ohio State and Wisconsin can be learning experiences.
"When you look at the grand scheme of things, where we're at and the adversity that we've been hit by, it's going to make us better in the long run," Durkin said Tuesday. "There's a lot of guys right now in positions they haven't been in before, in terms of mentally and having to fight through things, or young guys playing that maybe aren't ready to do what they're supposed to do. It'll make us stronger as a team.
"It really makes you look in the mirror and decide, OK, how much does your teammate mean to you, how much do you care about being accountable for one another and all those things, when you go through some adversity. We're building this thing the right way and for the long term."
Many Maryland players are inspired by former teammates who led the squad when they were underclassmen.
The defensive players found motivation in seeing defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars and graduated from Maryland in 2016, come back to College Park on Saturday. Former defensive lineman Azubuike Ukandu and running back Kenneth Goins, who both graduated earlier this year, encouraged teammates on the sideline.
Likely still motivates defensive players without even visiting.
"I watch Will in the slot a lot," defensive back Josh Woods said Tuesday. "His patience for routes, his technique was flawless."
Some recruits are drawn to schools by their rich history. Alabama can point to quarterback Joe Namath, defensive end Derrick Thomas and wide receiver Julio Jones. Southern California can reference running backs Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson or wide receiver Lynn Swann.
Maryland is still building its brand of successful professional players. While that process takes time, the next wave of NFL Terps is near.
Behind the bevy of four-star prospects Durkin has drawn to College Park, the Terps might compete in the Big Ten in two years.
In 15 years, Maryland players will watch highlights of freshman quarterback Kasim Hill's poise and versatility leading up to homecoming. They'll see first-year running back Anthony McFarland break defender's ankles and rookie offensive lineman Marcus Minor deny the conference's most feared pass rushers.
When that happens, the annual ceremonies and nostalgic trips will take on a new tone, becoming a celebration of a revitalized program.