"It was time."
That's what McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) offensive guard Ellis McKennie
declared May 28 after sitting on a Maryland
offer since early February. Long had the hometown school led for the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder's services, and after months of hemming, hawing and hinting he finally pulled the trigger for the school he wanted to be at all along.
"I was just talking things over with my family and we just felt like there was no reason to delay [the commitment] anymore," said McKennie, who also held offers from Rutgers
. "Maryland was just the best situation on and off the field and will give me the best opportunities after I graduate. The Big Ten move, the fact it was close to home, the relationships I had there – it all just fit. I knew I was going to Maryland for awhile; I just had to say the words."
After discussing the commitment with his mother and father, who live in Pennsylvania, McKennie first called his UMD recruiter, Keith Dudzinski, before dialing head coach Randy Edsall. Needless to say, both were ecstatic.
"Coach Edsall was so excited he said he was going to run off the road," McKennie said, chuckling. "And Coach Dud, he said he needed a pick-me-up today and I gave it to him.
"And I was really excited too. It was definitely a relief to get this over with, but more excitement. I'm definitely excited to be a Terp."
Two factors that McKennie harped on throughout the process were Maryland's academic reputation, aided by Edsall's education-first message, and the chance to play near his family. McKennie, an ‘A' student, wants to be a lawyer one day, and while he isn't sure what he wants to major in, he believes UMD will prepare him well. Meanwhile, his mom and dad live about two hours from College Park, Md., and will be able to attend every home game.
"I'm very close with my family, so them being able to see me play was big," said McKennie, who actually grew up in Maryland and mentioned that he's a ‘Maryland guy' at heart. "And just for what I want to do after college, I know there's great opportunities at Maryland. Just the location around D.C. and being close to Baltimore, I feel like I could find a job in that area, and I know there are a lot of lawyers in and around the area too."
Relationships played a major role in McKennie's decision as well. He's formed a close bond with Dudzinski for the last several months, talking to him in person while on campus for a junior day and a personal visit, and then conversing on the phone once or twice a week. McKennie also said he's fond of Edsall and new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who should help develop his game during the McDonogh lineman's time in College Park.
"Coach Dud was huge. He's such a great guy, and when we talk it's just like small talk," McKennie said. "I told him awhile back Maryland was my No. 1, and since then he hasn't even tried to really recruit me. It was just him saying, ‘Just let me know when you're ready and give me a ring.' It was really chill.
"And Coach Edsall, he's a great guy and I like what he's all about. And Coach Stud, his resume speaks for itself. It's a great opportunity for me to learn under a coach who did great things at LSU."
McKennie went on to say that every Terps coach in general made him feel welcome and let it be known how much he was wanted.
"They all made it clear I was needed at Maryland, and how I wouldn't be just another guy on the roster. They all believed it was the best fit for me in terms of what the college can do for me, the chance to play in the Big Ten, and academically," said McKennie, who projects as a guard but mentioned the staff hasn't told him exactly where he's slotted to line up. "And it didn't take me too long to agree with them."
The Maryland staff received a bit of an assist from a soon-to-be-Terp as well. Class of 2014 McDonogh defensive back Josh Woods, who signed with UMD in February, has been in McKennie's ear for some time.
"Josh was definitely huge. He was always telling me about Maryland, trying to get me to go there," McKennie said. "He said I'd love the coaches and the school. He always said, ‘Come to Maryland with me, come to Maryland with me.' And now I guess I will be (laughs)."
McKennie was last on campus back in April, the day before UMD's spring game. He plans to return to College Park at some point this summer, though no date has been set in stone.
In the meantime, he'll be doing some recruiting of his own.
"I'm trying to get [teammate] Wyatt [Cook] on board with Maryland now too," McKennie said. "I know he likes the school, so I'll be picking his brain. I'll try to get whoever the staff wants me to get."
This offseason McKennie, who has been at McDonogh since sixth grade, said he's working on all aspects of his game. A starter since his sophomore year, he started every game at right guard last season but is slotted to play left tackle this year.
"Right now I'd say I'm doing well in the running game and just improving the physical parts of my game. My pass protection is coming along too, and I'm working hard on my punches and footwork," said McKennie, who throws shot-put for the track team. "One thing I definitely need to work on is flexibility. That's one thing I need to get better at."
And when the season is completed and February rolls around, he said he'd be ready to sign on the dotted line. McKennie emphatically stated he's taking no more college visits and has officially ended the recruiting process.
"I'm a Terp, I'm ready to come down to College Park, win a Rose Bowl and take the national championship," McKennie said. "I know when I get there Maryland is going to be ready to make a run."
McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) offensive guard Ellis McKennie committed to Maryland May 28.