For Tyrrell Pigrome — a quarterback whose Maryland football career thus far has been defined by uncertainty — the preseason meeting he had with coach Mike Locksley and transfer Josh Jackson could have been one sidetrack too many.
To that point, Pigrome had earned the starting job in 2017, but soon tore his ACL. He was relegated to backup duty in 2018, but got a shot once more when Kasim Hill tore his ACL late in the year. Then, when Jackson joined from Virginia Tech to be the presumptive starter, Pigrome played him close in camp — but it was Jackson who received the starting nod in the end.
“It was definitely hard,” Pigrome said. “I ain’t going to lie to you.”
Now, though, after Jackson’s injury, Pigrome is back under center to start a game. He weathered the jolts and stuck with the program even when he seemed destined to minimal playing time.
When so many other quarterbacks might have started considering other routes right then and there, transfer options with clearer paths toward snaps, Pigrome sought out his support units instead. He talked to his mother, and his former high school offensive coordinator Stuart Floyd.
And then he thought of his father, who died when the former three-star recruit was still in high school.
“He wouldn’t back down,” Pigrome said. “He wouldn’t quit. He wouldn’t appreciate me if I do that.”
So Pigrome stayed, even when significant playing time looked unlikely. He prepared as if he were the starter, appeared in a change-of-pace role on select series and stood ready at a moment’s notice for a jump in action if he was ever needed.
That time has come, though it’s not an ideal situation. Jackson suffered a high-ankle sprain against Rutgers, and Pigrome doesn’t know how long this starting role will last. But he’ll cherish this opportunity, made possible through a fight-rather-than-flight mentality, turning this summer’s disappointment into another chance to lead the Terps’ offense.
“A lot of these guys that play that position, when they don’t get their way, they take their ball and go home,” Locksley said. “Piggy’s been the epitome of a team player.”
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Pigrome’s seen action on the field in each of his four seasons at Maryland — but he’s hardly seen that time extend beyond cameos into a long-lived starting role.
There was his 24-yard touchdown run in double overtime against Central Florida in 2016, a one-play walk-off score after he relieved the injured Perry Hills. And later that year, he started his first game but underwhelmed with 161 yards through the air, including a touchdown and two interceptions.
Still, there he was, starting against Texas in the 2017 season opener, putting the Terps in prime position for the upset with two throwing touchdowns and another on the ground. But his season-ending knee injury put a pin in his early success.
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By the time Pigrome returned in 2018, it was Hill who’d be starting under center instead. He’d return, though, for the final two games of the season after Hill’s season-ending injury, coming one play short of an upset against Ohio State.
It’s been a long road back here for Pigrome, who’s poised to start just the fifth game of his Terps career against Purdue on Saturday in place of the injured Jackson.
“It’s the worst way to get the job,” Pigrome said. “But at the end of the day, I look at it as motivation and I always try to push myself forward.”
Pigrome’s come a long way since that two-point conversion attempt against the Buckeyes fell wide of receiver Jeshaun Jones, leaving Maryland with a 52-51 loss. This offseason, he dropped about 10 pounds in an attempt to feel more agile and fluid, a change that’s helped with the run-pass options Locksley’s system is full of.
He visited a quarterback camp in June, worked on his footwork and improved his mid-range passing, all in an attempt to make his two-game stint as starter in 2018 into a full-time gig. Jackson still beat him out, but the competition was closer than initially expected.
“He can do it all. He can pass, he can run,” running back Anthony McFarland said. “When he’s in the game, it makes it hard to defend because you don’t know what’s coming.”
Those leaps and bounds for Pigrome have him poised for more time at the helm after Jackson’s setback. Pigrome’s playing without a brace on his knee, and he said he finally feels fully healthy for the first time since the 2017 Texas matchup.
So, when he takes the field Saturday in West Lafayette, Indiana, the no-quit mentality that kept him rooted in College Park despite having a backup role will have paid off.
Pigrome’s a starter once more.
“Body feeling better, I’m feeling better,” Pigrome said. “I feel like it’s unfinished business.”