Maryland football’s historic 2001 run came as a surprise for many, and it all started with the culture set by then-first-year head coach Ralph Friedgen.

Maryland finished with a 5-6 record in 2000, the program’s fifth consecutive losing season. The Terps needed a fresh start, and in November 2000, Maryland hired Friedgen to be the next head coach of the football program. He led the Terps to the 2001 ACC championship and an appearance in the Orange Bowl.

Prior to landing the Maryland job, Friedgen was the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers (1994-1996) and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Georgia Tech (1997-2000). He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland (1969-1971) after his playing days were over in College Park. He returned to be the Terps’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 1982-1986.

Friedgen would quickly build something special as the head man, but former Maryland linebacker and College Football Hall of Famer E.J. Henderson said that players didn’t click with Friedgen and his staff right away.

“To be honest, when he first got here, I think we thought they were overdoing it and they were trying to do too much, trying to prove a point about being a new staff,” Henderson said on Glenn Clark Radio Oct. 27. “Everything was go, go, go, you’ve got to do it to the max and all this and all that. Coach Friedgen wasn’t personable at all. Coach Friedgen didn’t really start being personable until we started to win, and that was few and far between.”

“I knew he knew football like the back of his hand,” the former linebacker added. “I knew he was a former Terp, so I think that got him a lot of respect, because he had history as being a Terp.”

Former Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill said that after spring ball in 2001, Friedgen called Hill into his office to discuss his role as the team’s starting quarterback. Hill was entering his senior year at the time.

“He said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to be any good this year, so if you’re not going to absolutely beat out these freshmen’ — we had Latrez Harrison and Chris Kelley — ‘if you’re not going to beat these guys out handily, I’m going to play one of the young guys,'” Hill said on GCR Oct. 26. “I’m not kidding you.”

“He has his way of motivating,” Hill added. “I don’t know if he necessarily thought, ‘We’re not going to be any good.'”

Henderson explained that once players started executing Friedgen’s vision for the team and spread their knowledge to the underclassmen, the culture of the team changed.

Friedgen’s first game as Terps head coach came on Sept. 1, 2001, against North Carolina. Tar Heels running back Willie Parker ran for a 77-yard touchdown on Carolina’s opening possession of the first quarter.

“I remember when he made the run and scored, Gary Blackney, my defensive coordinator got on the phone and said, ‘Am I fired?’ And I said, ‘We’ve got 59 more minutes, I’ll make a decision then,'” Friedgen said on GCR Oct. 26.

Maryland recovered and beat the Tar Heels, 23-7. The following week, the Terps pummeled Eastern Michigan, 50-3, and kept rolling to a 5-0 start and became the No. 22-ranked team in the country. Maryland’s next opponent was No. 15 Georgia Tech, Friedgen’s old team.

In an ACC battle on national television, Maryland found itself down by three late in the fourth quarter. The Terps needed a 46-yard field goal to tie the game and send the contest to overtime. Unproven redshirt freshman kicker Nick Novak was sent out on the field. Novak previously missed a 32-yarder in the third quarter.

“I knew [Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary] would ice him, but I would never let kickers to stand out there by themselves and think about it,” Friedgen said. “So I brought Nick over, and I know I wanted to say something that will loosen him up and I said, ‘Hey Nick, if you make this, I’ll give you a hundred bucks.’ He looked at me and started laughing.”

Just like that, Novak nailed it and sent the game to overtime. The Terps eventually won, 20-17, which made them 6-0 on the season.

“After we won that game, people knew we were serious. They knew we had some athletes. We had some dogs on defense,” Henderson said. “Once we got ranked, it was like, ‘Whoopy here, this is big-time college football. Let’s see what we can do with it.'”

After a 59-17 win against Duke, Maryland suffered its first loss of the season to Florida State. The Terps won their next two games to bring their record to 9-1. The final game of the regular season was against Philip Rivers’ NC State team.

Late in the fourth quarter, Maryland freshman running back Rich Parson fumbled the ball on NC State’s 1-yard line. A frustrated Parson returned to the Terps’ sideline, but Parson’s teammates encouraged him.

“I remember how emotional Rich got coming off the sidelines and our players went up to him,” Friedgen said. “I think there was like 2:30 left in the game. And they told him they were going to win this game, and I was proud of our players for that. They didn’t get on Rich.”

Maryland ultimately beat NC State, 23-19, to win the ACC title outright and faced No. 5 Florida in the Orange Bowl. The Terps’ magical season came to an end after a loss against the Gators in the Orange Bowl, but Maryland finished the season with the ninth ACC title in program history.

“What it took was just everybody buying in and absolutely taking it one day at a time,” Hill said.

Friedgen coached Maryland until 2010, going 75-50 as Terps coach. Henderson won ACC Player of the Year in 2001 and was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2003 NFL Draft. He played for the Vikings until retiring in 2011. Hill went undrafted following the 2001 season but signed with the Vikings. He went on to play for four teams during an 11-year NFL career.

Maryland will honor the 2001 ACC champions during its game against Indiana Oct. 30.

For more from Friedgen, listen to the full interview here:

For more from Henderson, listen to the full interview here:

For more from Hill, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics