COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland coach DJ Durkin is a man of few words, except perhaps when it comes to talking about Terrapins linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about Jermaine,” Durkin said Tuesday. “I could go all day.”
Durkin proceeded to list a litany of Carter’s qualities, beginning with: “He’s a tremendous leader, a tremendous person, a very good football player and highly productive. Just comes to work every day.”
Carter will play his final game at Maryland on Saturday. Although the Terps (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) no longer have a chance to secure a bowl bid, Carter will attack No. 12 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) as if the outcome will determine the national champion.
“It’s not going to be any different from any other week,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and expect to win.”
Carter began his career under coach Randy Edsall and played his final two seasons under Durkin. Though the man at the top changed, Carter’s numbers remained consistent.
After ringing up 12 tackles last week at Michigan State, the 6-foot, 228-pounder Carter is poised to become only the fifth player since 1969 to lead Maryland in tackles for three straight seasons. Three of the previous four — D’Qwell Jackson, E.J. Henderson and Ratcliff Thomas — ended up playing in the NFL.
“Tackling, that’s what a linebacker is supposed to do. That, and put the ball on the ground,” Carter said.
He is tied for the Big Ten lead with four forced fumbles and leads the Terrapins with 3 ½ sacks.
“I want to be that guy,” Carter said. “If I could, I would lead in every defensive category.”
As one of the team captains, Carter is an unquestioned leader in the locker room.
“He tries to bring everybody together,” senior defensive tackle Kingsley Opara said. “It’s all about the team; it’s never about him.”
When Durkin arrived, the first-time head coach immediately identified Carter as a player who could serve as the model of he expected from the team.
“He’s bought into what we’re doing as a program,” Durkin said. “When you’re trying to get a whole team to head into a direction and fit a certain mold of competitiveness, of work ethic, of trust, of accountability, he’s the example of that.”
Opara will also be playing his final game Saturday. When he reflects upon his career at Maryland, he will remember Carter fondly.
“You know what you’re going to get from Jermaine Carter,” Opara said. “He’s a consistent player. He’s a workaholic. You can’t stop him. I love him for that.”
During Carter’s four-year run at Maryland, the team has compiled a 20-29 record and lost both its bowl games. Not exactly memorable stuff, but that’s not what Carter will take out of his stay in College Park.
“College set me up for life,” Carter said. “Of course, you wish we could have won more bowl games. But I’ve enjoyed the whole experience of college.”
The man who grew up with the nickname Pee-Wee — foisted upon him by his big brother at birth — will leave a huge impression at Maryland.
“He’ll definitely be a guy we’ll miss around here,” Durkin said. “Although he hasn’t had as many wins as he would have wanted, he’s had a tremendous career here. He plays championship-level football every week.”