On the finish of 2015, DJ Durkin addressed the Maryland soccer staff for the primary time. Some gamers considered him with skepticism, the pure response of hypercompetitive faculty athletes — who is that this new man, anyway? Standing earlier than the gamers, pacing backwards and forwards, Durkin chipped away at their doubt. He declared the Terrapins would turn out to be an awesome staff underneath his watch in the event that they purchased into his imaginative and prescient. Gamers may sense his ardour and depth. They understood what the place meant to him.
“The man labored his complete life to turn out to be a head coach, and he was going to do it to perfection,” former Maryland defensive finish Roman Braglio stated. “This man had actually devoted his life to soccer.”
In lower than twenty years, Durkin rose from undersized defensive finish at Bowling Inexperienced to Huge Ten head coach. He constructed his teaching résumé on a consuming work ethic and famend depth, working underneath a number of the most profitable coaches of the period, till he signed a five-year, $12.5 million contract to revive Maryland. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, a small metropolis known as the Cradle of Coaches for the variety of high-profile coaches it has produced, Durkin established himself as one of many brightest younger minds in soccer.
Over the previous two months, Durkin, 40, has presided over tragedy and watched his speedy ascent unravel. The College of Maryland positioned him on administrative go away Saturday, after an ESPN report described a “poisonous” ambiance that contributed to the June 13 demise from exterior heatstroke of Jordan McNair. The 19-year-old offensive lineman collapsed throughout a Could 29 exercise. The job Durkin labored so obsessively towards and the profession that had been pointed on an upward trajectory is in extreme jeopardy.
College of Maryland president Wallace Loh introduced Tuesday the college would examine experiences of abusive ways utilized by Durkin and his workers. No matter what the college finds, Durkin was in control of a program on the day a participant suffered a demise specialists considered as preventable.
Former gamers throughout Durkin’s tenure as an assistant at Stanford, Florida and Michigan described Durkin as passionate, caring, demanding and dedicated to soccer. A number of former gamers interviewed for this story supported Durkin and credited him with serving to not solely their soccer careers, however their lives off the sector. Others have indicated they perceived Durkin as overly intense, at the same time as an assistant coach.
“Coach Durkin was a special man,” former Michigan security Jabrill Peppers stated Wednesday on “The Wealthy Eisen Present.” “His ways had been totally different. It felt excessive at instances. I’m simply as shocked studying all of the stuff that’s occurring now, as a result of I believed he was solely like that as a result of it was his first time teaching us.
“It’s simply the best way he goes about getting probably the most out of his gamers. Me being from the place I’m from, I didn’t prefer it, however on the finish of the day I knew what the general objective was. The way in which I might describe it, sort of like bully teaching. I don’t assume he meant something by it, however it’s sort of the way it comes out.”
A number of gamers who performed underneath Durkin throughout his first season at Maryland stated they had been shocked to examine allegations of a staff tradition rife with intimidation and humiliation. For them, the coach they known as “Durk” introduced infectious power to his groups, fast to crack a smile or leap to bump our bodies with gamers to rejoice a giant play in observe.
“It was shocking, as a result of abusive is a phrase I wouldn’t hook up with Durk,” former Florida linebacker Michael Taylor stated. “However we performed high-level soccer. It is rather demanding. He simply wished you to do issues his means.”
Durkin started his teaching profession at Bowling Inexperienced in 2001, instantly after he ended his taking part in profession. First-year head coach City Meyer employed him as a graduate assistant.
“I instantly gave him full-time duty after in regards to the first few weeks we had been collectively,” Meyer stated in 2016. Meyer wished to rent Durkin on a everlasting foundation, and he may need had he not left Bowling Inexperienced for Utah. “That’s how good he was,” Meyer stated.
After one other stint as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, Durkin joined Jim Harbaugh’s workers at Stanford in 2007. For 3 years, beginning in his late 20s, Durkin coached defensive ends and ran particular groups. At the same time as a younger coach, Durkin’s prowess managing particular groups made his promise evident.
“It’s a soccer staff inside a soccer staff,” stated Erik Lorig, a Stanford defensive finish who would play six years within the NFL. “He ran particular groups prefer it was a nationwide soccer staff. We had been handled that means, and we had excessive expectations on a regular basis. DJ was on his means as much as be a soccer nice, and to be an awesome soccer coach.”
Lorig described Durkin as “inspiring” and meticulous, wanting to evaluation and critique each snap Lorig performed, trying to find methods to enhance even his greatest performances.
“He introduced a degree of depth of you wished,” Lorig stated. “I couldn’t have requested for anybody higher than him, primarily based on what I wished out of my faculty soccer expertise. I went from a reasonably obscure faculty soccer athlete who hadn’t completed something profound to an NFL-caliber participant who was dominant within the Pac-12 Convention and went on to a six-year NFL profession. I might not have completed that with out DJ Durkin.”
Underneath Harbaugh, Durkin burnished his fame as a coach who pushed his competitiveness to the sting, even away from soccer. He and Harbaugh performed brutal one-on-one basketball video games, excessive on physicality, low on ability. “There was no fouls being known as, and there was plenty of blood on the court docket,” Durkin as soon as stated on a radio interview.
“His pregame speeches are a number of the greatest I’ve ever heard,” former Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy, whom Durkin recruited to Stanford, stated in 2015. “He’d speak about how the opponents had been coming into our home and we had been going to lock the gate behind them and never allow them to out ’til we had been completed with them. Stuff like that. Simply stuff that will get faculty guys fired up and able to go run via a brick wall.”
Durkin reunited with Meyer in 2010, transferring to teach linebackers for him at Florida. He would ultimately turn out to be Florida’s defensive coordinator underneath Will Muschamp, who changed Meyer after he left to confront well being points. Durkin’s defenses produced a great deal of NFL gamers and ranked among the many stingiest within the nation. Rivals.com named him its recruiter of the yr in 2012.
“Durk was good with us,” former Florida security Marcus Maye, who now performs for the New York Jets. “I imply, he did an awesome job with us at Florida, as a coach, as an individual. I actually don’t know what’s occurring over there, however so far as my expertise with him, it was all good.”
Durkin rejoined Harbaugh at Michigan in 2015, and he led one of many nation’s greatest defenses earlier than Maryland employed him. Some gamers stated Durkin boosted morale upon arrival. Braglio recalled himself and teammates feeling embarrassed underneath former coach Randy Edsall, who would ceaselessly single out gamers in staff movie periods.
“The primary staff assembly we had with [Durkin], I knew that he was the man that Maryland wanted,” former offensive lineman Michael Dunn stated. “He’s been round so many big-time applications, and he had an thought how he wished to attain profitable.”
Cornerback Jarrett Ross, who stated he “cherished” taking part in for Durkin, stated Durkin used grueling exercises, led by energy coach Rick Court docket, to determine his personal tradition. At one summer season observe his first season, in response to a 2016 story within the Carroll County Occasions, Durkin yelled at gamers, “Nobody cares when you’re drained” as they slogged from one station to a different, earlier than making them stroll again 20 yards and retrace their steps on a dash.
Court docket resigned from Maryland on Monday, turning into the primary Maryland worker to lose his job within the wake of McNair’s demise.
“It’s tragic,” Ross stated. “No child ought to ever go after faculty and must undergo one thing like that. That’s not the way it needs to be. I checked out it as a shock. I by no means thought issues could be this fashion, primarily based on the way it was after I was there. They taken care of everyone. Seeing a number of the experiences, it simply doesn’t sound like Durk and Court docket. I assume issues modified, in response to some individuals.”
Even after the tragedy, lots of Durkin’s former gamers have remained loyal to him. Dunn emphasised he didn’t know the information of the exercise that led to McNair’s demise, however he portrayed Durkin as uncommonly attentive amongst soccer coaches. Lorig, the previous Stanford participant, remembered Durkin comforting him after he tore his groin his senior season, which diminished his NFL inventory.
“It wasn’t simply he cared about his gamers to assist him win video games,” stated Dunn, now in coaching camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “He cared about his guys even after they left. That’s one of many greatest issues about Coach Durkin, I simply have a lot respect for that. I do know loads of different coaches who may be all speak on the subject of stuff like that.”