• Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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Maryland players will continue to honor Jordan McNair this season

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Maryland offensive lineman Ellis McKennie (68) walks with teammate Taivon Jacobs as he waves a flag in remembrance of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died after collapsing on a practice field during a spring practice, after an NCAA college football game against Texas, on Sept. 1 in Landover, Md. Maryland won 34-29.

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. >> A Maryland football season dedicated to Jordan McNair could be an emotional ride.

McNair died of heatstroke on June 3, two weeks after he collapsed on the field during a conditioning drill.

The Terrapins paid tribute to the sophomore offensive lineman in a variety of ways Saturday in the opener against Texas. Their action on his behalf began during pregame introductions and continued into the locker room after a surprising 34-29 victory.

As the players entered the field, guard Ellis McKennie carried a large red flag with McNair’s No. 79 on it. On Maryland’s first play, the offense lined up with 10 players, leaving a gap at right guard.

Afterward, McKinnie waved the 79 flag as the Terrapins saluted their fans. In the locker room, the players yelled “79!” in unison and placed the game ball in McNair’s empty cubicle.

“There was a celebration of Jordan in our locker room,” interim coach Matt Canada said Tuesday.

It won’t stop there. Canada expects the players to honor McNair on Saturday at Bowling Green (0-1) and right on through the Big Ten schedule.

“How they continue to honor Jordan will be up to them,” Canada said. “I know they’re going to continue to do those things. The flag was their idea. It’s a big deal to them. Talking about Jordan is a big deal to them. Remembering Jordan is a big deal to them.”

The players have not had opportunity to talk about it. Since the start of summer practice, the only time Maryland allowed the athletes to answer questions from the media was when quarterback Kasim Hill and Taivon Jacobs talked at the podium following the Texas game.

While two separate investigations are underway to determine the circumstances of McNair’s death and the culture of the football program, head coach DJ Durkin is on administrative leave.

That means Canada will serve double duty, running the team while serving as offensive coordinator. He’s also willing to lend an ear with anyone who needs to talk about the circumstances surrounding this football team.

“People grieve in different ways,” he said.

Despite never playing the role of head coach before, Canada did an impressive job of pulling together the players and staff to beat a Texas team that came in ranked 23rd in the nation and was a 13½-point favorite.

“My focus will still be on being the coordinator and just kind of managing,” Canada said. “Everybody did their job, stuck to their role. I didn’t do much different that way. Being on the field was different. I think we handled it fine.”

The uncertainty of his situation is not a factor as he readies the Terps for a Bowling Green team that beat Maryland by three touchdowns in 2015.

“Every week is a new week,” Canada said. “That’s our mantra.”

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