COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- When Terps safety Denzel Conyers had his senior season cut short last year after tearing his ACL in the third quarter of Maryland’s win at UCF, it could have been the end of his college football career, but a recently granted medical redshirt by the NCAA has given Conyers a sixth year of eligibility and a renewed passion for the game.
After waiting anxiously for several months for a ruling to be made, Conyers was in his room in College Park playing Madden ‘17 online with his cousin when a member of the NCAA compliance office called to deliver the big news.
“Once he said the NCAA ruled in your favor and approved you for your sixth year, I just went crazy, every emotion imaginable,” Conyers said. “I was excited. I dropped my phone and started screaming. It was just crazy. I started crying. It was just a beautiful moment in my life. It means so much to me. I feel like it was a very big moment for the University of Maryland and Terps nation because there were so many people behind me that supported me.”
Conyers isn’t planning on taking his bonus year of college football for granted. He even changed his jersey number from 11 to 3 as a way to represent his “blessing” from the NCAA.
“It’s just like a new beginning,” Conyers said of his jersey number change. “Since I’m a man of God and it’s a blessing, it’s like the holy trinity--father, son and the holy spirit. So I feel like it embodies this new path and this new passion for the game.
“I feel like a freshman again, like it’s another opportunity of football that has been granted to me. I can’t really put it into words because this is bigger than me, this moment. The whole number change and everything. This is for everybody’s prayers, everybody’s support, everybody who helped uplift my spirits. This season is for everybody, and my goal and my promise is to not let anyone down. I’m going to give it my all and play and enjoy every moment to the best of my ability.”
With his return for one more year of college football, the 23-year-old Conyers, who will graduate from Maryland in May, brings much-needed seniority to a Terps secondary that features several freshmen and sophomores that figure to have a major impact next season.
“It’s really big, especially at that position group for us,” Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin said of Conyers’ return to the team. “I think we are and are going to continue to be very talented at that position, but we’re young. It’s a lot of young talent. It’s guys we either signed either a year ago or just this past February that really make up the majority of that room. Denzel is a guy who provides great perspective. He has leadership qualities about him. He’s levelheaded. He goes about his business the right way, so he’s a great guy in that room for those guys to look up to and ask questions.”
Conyers has taken advantage of his opportunity to be a leader for the Terps and said he would often give advice to Maryland’s underclassmen last season while he was rehabbing his knee.
The St. Petersburg, Fla., native is happy to help usher in the new era of Terps football, especially with several fellow Floridians in the defensive backs’ room with him. And the time he has spent working with the secondary’s underclassmen has grown to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
“I feel like with me being the oldest guy in the [defensive backs] room and one of the older guys on the team, I’m learning a lot from [the younger players], honestly,” Conyers said. “I’m appreciating the game more and having fun with it. You have guys like the [Daniels] twins and Qwuantrezz [Knight], they’re just so full of energy and life, so I’m just kind of getting some of that energy from them. I feel like as much as I’m helping them and leading them, they’re also helping me.”
At spring practice April 6, Conyers said his knee is feeling about 80 percent healed. He is currently suiting up for spring practices but only participating in light, non-contact drills. Conyers and the Maryland coaching staff are on the same page and do not want to rush his rehab with an entire summer left to get healthy.
Before his injury last year, Conyers started the first three games of the season at safety for the Terps and recorded 13 total tackles. As a junior in 2015, Conyers appeared in nine games and totaled 15 tackles, including two for a loss and a sack.