University of Maryland Terps share practice field with Morgan State Bears ahead of “Baltimore Day”

By Maliik Obee
Special to the AFRO

Spring football is underway across the country, as teams look to prepare for the 2024-25 collegiate season. With an opportunity to build on its in-state connection, the Morgan State welcomed Maryland to Hughes Stadium for a split-practice on April 6 in honor of “Baltimore Day,” recognized each year on April 10. The day is special because the April 10 date matches the area’s “410” area code when written numerically as “4/10.” 

Morgan State football coach Damon Wilson, center, addresses his team during a spring football practice on April 6. Wilson welcomed the opportunity to host a split-practice “Baltimore Day” event at Hughes Stadium with Maryland coach Mike Locksley and his team. The two coaches agreed the event would please fans and draw in-state recruits for both teams. While practicing on the same field, each team held its session individually during the day. Photo courtesy Morgan State University sports information

Morgan State Coach Damon Wilson and Maryland Coach Mike Locksley are both natives of the Washington D.C. area, with Wilson starring as an All-CIAA tight end for Bowie State; and Locksley playing defensive back at Towson University (1988-1991) before joining the coaching staff in 1992. In-addition to sharing over two decades in coaching experience and a beltway connection, the two agreed on an idea to bring Locksley’s Football Bowl Subdivision program to Wilson’s historically-black campus to share the field with a rising Football Championship Subdivision program.

This practice marked day six of spring work for the Bears, who finished 4-6 in 2023, despite a defense that tied (Florida A&M) for the seventh-fewest touchdowns allowed (26) in 2023. Locksley’s Terrapins finished 7-5 in the regular season, before capturing a 31-13 victory over Auburn in the Transperfect Music City Bowl. 

The two teams split their sessions, with Morgan taking the field in the morning, and Maryland practicing in the afternoon. Yet the day symbolized much more than a random invite for a big-name program to practice at a black college. The inaugural event entitled “Baltimore Day” helped shorten the one-hour distance between the two universities for the football world  and local community.

“Having UMD come practice with us is major,” Morgan State senior Josh Graham said. “Especially for them to come from the   conference and their exposure, it shows that we are making some noise around the state. We just have to make noise worldwide. It’s a tall task, but I know we have everything we need to do what we said we want to do.”

The transfer portal has made it easier for players at different levels of collegiate football to move up or down, finding the best fit for themselves as student-athletes and individuals. 

This event provided a glimpse into Wilson’s budding program – and a history lesson about a team that boasts four inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Len Ford, Leroy Kelly, Willie Lanier, Rose Brown). 

It also served as a reminder of the deep roots of the Morgan coaching staff, and its desire to keep local talent in the state. 

It was Wilson and Bears defensive coordinator Antoine Sewell, both former stars on the football field for Bowie State, who joined forces as coaches to win three CIAA Championships (2018,2019, 2021) and make six NCAA Division II playoff appearances between 2015-2021. The event gave local high school talent from across Baltimore City and its neighboring counties a chance to see two of the best programs in the area at work.

Morgan hit the field with intention and purpose, with the sound of pads popping and echoing throughout the stadium. 

Graduate student and wideout Anthony James Jr. is one of several Bears to play elsewhere before joining the program, spending time at Marshall University. The Prince George’s County native (Potomac High) caught 20 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown in 2023, as he looks to help the Bears claim the MEAC crown. James reflected on the opportunity to share the field with Maryland, and his thoughts on Morgan’s growth.

“I liked that Maryland came down to Morgan,” he said. “I think it’s always good to see the community come together. Over (the course of) my time here, I feel that the team is really becoming one, and we are getting one percent better everyday.”

The Bears remained on the field following their practice, serving as a gracious host. As the coaches and players shared words and posed for photos, the two Under Armour-sponsored programs helped usher in a new possible tradition for two major programs, in a city rich in football and culture.

“I appreciate Coach Wilson and Morgan State for partnering with us for Baltimore Day,” Locksley said in a statement released prior to the practice. “The Baltimore community means so much to both Maryland and Morgan so we’re thrilled to come together for this. We have so many loyal alumni and fans in the Baltimore area so to be able to provide an easy way for them to get out and watch us practice is important.”

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