While spending time with safety Darnell Savage Jr. this offseason, former Maryland football defensive back Will Likely asked him a question.
“Are you going to get four?”
Likely wore No. 4 during his four-year career at Maryland, earning Big Ten honors as a return specialist and cornerback his junior year before tearing his ACL last season. Likely was a mentor for Savage, so the former star asked if he would switch his number from No. 26 to No. 4 following the senior’s graduation.
After pondering the decision, Savage approached coach DJ Durkin. A few days later, a No. 4 jersey hung in Savage’s locker.
“Will is like a big brother to me,” Savage said after Maryland’s spring practice last week. “I learned a lot from him, so it was kind of like a passing of the torch.”
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After playing 10 games at cornerback as a freshman, Savage started at safety last season. The defensive back unit meets, trains and watches film together, which allowed Savage to learn from Likely.
Savage admitted he didn’t know how to study film at first, but Likely helped him. Plus, the upperclassman instilled confidence in his protégé, who said the pair keep in touch as Likely pursues an NFL career.
Savage will rely on Likely’s lessons as he competes with Denzel Conyers and four-star recruit Markquese Bell for playing time this season.
“Even when I was a freshman and he was a junior, he always told me, ‘Don’t try to be like me; try to be better than me,'” Savage said. “He just pushes me to be better and not really think about anything. Just play.”