There are no cameras pointed toward Capital One Field. All 54,000 Byrd Stadium seats are empty. There aren’t officials sprinting back and forth, no voice booming over the PA system spouting messages from advertisers.

But there’s a football. And there are scores of giddy college students. Some weigh more than 300 pounds, others are shorter than 6 feet. But they’re all pumped to play the game they love.

It’s time for shirts versus skins.

“Any time a bunch of 300-pound men are running around with their shirts off and giggling like little girls, it’s always a good sign of fun being had,” center Evan Mulrooney said Nov. 18.

Since taking over as the Terrapins football interim head coach Oct. 11, Mike Locksley has placed a premium on creating a lighter atmosphere around the team. That includes ending Friday walk-throughs with two-hand touch games pitting position groups against one another.

In a world of college football dominated by television deals and advertiser revenue, it’s not always easy to keep everyone levelheaded, especially when your team is on an eight-game losing streak.

But that’s exactly what Locksley has done.

“It was definitely not very fun saying goodbye to [former coach] Randy [Edsall] after Ohio State,” Mulrooney said Nov. 18. Locksley “brought with him a new energy and a new life to the team. Honestly, I’ve had more fun in the past six weeks playing football than I have since I was in high school.” 


Locksley’s tenure at New Mexico wasn’t any fun. After serving as an assistant at Illinois from 2005-08, he was brought on as the Lobos’ head coach in 2009.

He had wanted to be at the helm of his own program for years. He regularly skipped out on family occasions, instead hitting the recruiting trail and working late hours. But when he his chance came, things didn’t pan out.

Four games into his third season, New Mexico fired Locksley. The Lobos went 2-26 with him at the helm.

“When you’re losing games, you have a natural tendency to press,” Locksley said Nov. 17. “What that does is create another set of problems. It creates a team that’s tight, a team that’s afraid to make mistakes, a team that plays tentative.”

After his firing, Locksley’s agent urged him to purchase a journal to reflect on his time at New Mexico. He told Locksley to write down some of the things he liked and some of the things he didn’t like.

“If you ever got another chance,” Locksley remembers jotting down, “have fun with it. Don’t make it complicated. Because it’s really just football.”


Lawrence Brown remembers it fondly. When Brown and Locksley were 12-year-olds, they attended a Terps game at Byrd Stadium with some friends. As the crew was walking into the gate, Locksley made a bold statement.

“I’m going to have a key to this stadium,” Brown recalled Locksley saying. “They were like, ‘What? You’re not going to have no key to the stadium. Stop dreaming,’ he said. ‘Watch. I’m going to have a key to this stadium.’”

A Washington, D.C., native, Locksley returned home in 1997 to serve as a Terps assistant coach. He left for Florida after the 2002 campaign but returned in 2012 to serve as the offensive coordinator under former coach Edsall.

The fun-loving Locksley has used his charming personality to attract numerous highly touted local recruits in recent years.  

He’s shown his playful side in public, too. After most of his weekly press conferences as offensive coordinator early this season, he did an Elvis Presley impersonation. “Thank you very much,” he’d say in a deep voice.

But Oct. 11, he sat expressionless in Glazer Auditorium as Athletic Director Kevin Anderson made the announcement that Locksley had been waiting to hear since he was a boy: He was the new head coach of the Terps.


It’s Nov. 17 and Locksley is sitting slumped in a loveseat in Edsall’s old office. He’s been the head coach 37 days, but he’s refused to move into the more spacious setting.

As Locksley puts it, his interim tag makes him a “substitute teacher.” Besides, he remembers how it felt to be fired.

When he left New Mexico, some of his former assistants kept in contact with him. Others didn’t. 

“I can remember saying, ‘Man, screw those guys,’” Locksley said. “Heard they changed practice schedules a little bit. So I guess the way I did it wasn’t good enough, huh?”

A few days after Edsall’s firing, Locksley made sure to give the man he still refers to as “coach” a call. He’s appreciative Edsall gave him another opportunity to coach for his home school. Plus, he feels partly responsible for the midseason coaching change.

In terms of wins and losses, the Terps haven’t fared much better under Locksley. The team went 2-4 under Edsall, but hasn’t won any of the five games since he left. It will have its final shot Saturday at Rutgers.

Sure, Locksley would’ve liked to earn more wins. But he’s proud of what he’s done. After a trying start to a season in which the Terps’ struggles became a local punch line, many players have commended Locksley for lightening the mood.

He stopped concluding his weekly press conferences with Elvis impersonations, but he’s done a lot to make things fun behind the scenes.

After the shirts versus skins two-hand-touch games on Fridays, the team congregates for dinner and a chapel session. During road games, they’ll turn the hotel into a giant hangout space.

With a movie playing in one room, and games of checkers, chess and Connect Four being played in another, the players feast on ice cream and popcorn.

“When you used to be a kid and you’d come home on Friday, it’s like family night,” Locksley said. “There’s just something about spending time with people.”


The offensive linemen have dominated the Friday shirts versus skins contests, Mulrooney joked. “I’m like the Lynn Swann of shirts and skins.”

“Before, Fridays we’d walk through. It was kind of a tense environment where you weren’t playing the game yet but you were mentally gearing up to play,” offensive lineman Ryan Doyle said. “Now we kind of divert to this six, seven minutes of just football in a very pure form.”

The Friday nights comprised of pickup football and movie gatherings are just some of the changes Locksley has implemented since taking over. He comes up with a theme of the week, which culminates on Saturdays with a video shown before game time.

Leading up to the Terps’ bout against Penn State on Oct. 24 — Locksley’s first game as head coach — he told his team members they were underdogs. So he showed them a clip of Mine That Bird, a horse that pulled off a miraculous upset in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

“This horse got banged around coming out of the starting gates and ended up being in the back of the pack through most of the race and then right at the end came up and won” ahead of 18 others, Locksley said. “These guys don’t follow horseracing, but they understood what I was trying to say.”

The Terps lost that game 31-30 and haven’t captured a victory since.

For weeks, rumors have swirled surrounding the Terps’ head coaching job. Locksley has maintained he isn’t concerned with his future within the program. And reports indicate the Terps will likely make an external hire.

But when speaking to the media Tuesday for his final weekly press conference, Locksley expressed gratitude for this season. He’s learned a lot about life, and he believes his players have, too. 

“It isn’t easy when you go through what we go through under the microscope,” Locksley said. “A lot of people have the opportunity to have their failures be private. Unfortunately in the sports business, it’s magnified and these are 18- to 22-year-old kids that are maturing.”

When the press conference was over, Locksley stood up from the table. He had work to do — one last game to prepare for. But first, he kneeled down and lowered his head to the microphone. He was grinning.

“Thank you very much.”