Maryland's new quarterback throws left-handed, has the body of a linebacker and favors the option offense. Unfortunately for the Terrapins, that's where the similarities end between freshman Shawn Petty and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Petty, who will start for the Terps on Saturday against Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3), has never taken a snap in a college game and wasn't planning to; he came to College Park to play linebacker. But with a season-ending injury eliminating a Maryland quarterback for the fourth time in 11 weeks, Petty, who played the position last fall at Eleanor Roosevelt High, will get the emergency call.
"The coolest thing is that I was blocking this guy two weeks ago on scout team," freshman center Evan Mulrooney said. "He was coming downhill trying to kill me, and I was trying to get him out of holes and stuff. Now he's taking snaps from me."
When Maryland (4-4, 2-2) lines up for its first snap Saturday, it will be with a quarterback wearing No. 31. It has been a bizarre season in which the Terps have adapted to quarterback catastrophe after quarterback catastrophe, remaining alive for a bowl berth. The loss of Caleb Rowe to a torn ACL last weekend at Boston College, however, will test the limits of their resilience.
Petty has played quarterback all his life and last fall threw for 1,244 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 550 yards, guiding ER to a 10-1 record in the competitive Prince George's County 4A league. But college recruiters got one look at his thick, 6-foot-1, 230-pound physique and his big windup and thought the same -- inside linebacker.
"He really feels he's a quarterback at heart," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "I think he's really looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and play. He's excited, and we're excited for him. He wants to go out and play really, really well."
Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley have done a remarkable job prepping their minimally experienced quarterbacks this year, putting them in positions to succeed. This will be their ultimate test. Petty began taking snaps in practice Oct. 21.
"He's into being a quarterback, and I think for him and for us it's probably a benefit," Locksley said. "This is something he really wants. He wants to prove he can play quarterback at this level even though we recruited him to be a linebacker. I love that because now I know he's going to put everything into being prepared and put everything to going out and executing. You can work with a guy that wants to."
As the Maryland quarterback the rest of the way, Petty has a rare opportunity to imprint his place in program history and do it within minutes of his home in Greenbelt. Will his brief tenure catapult him to folklore status, or will he become a punch line for another dubious season in College Park?
Mulrooney, for one, can't wait to see how this improbable season plays out.
"It's pretty surreal when you think about it," he said. "You look back and you say, 'Wow, is this really possible?' It feels like we're gonna get a movie done about us for just how crazy this story line is. You can't script this stuff. But we've rolled with the punches pretty well."