RED LION -- The dream of playing college football has floated around in the head of Andrew Zeller for quite a while.
It started way back when he and his family lived in the North Carroll School District in northern Maryland many years ago. He recalled going to high school games as a young boy and rooting for Steve Suter, who later become a first-team all-state running back for North Carroll in 1999.
Suter parlayed his success into a scholarship to the University of Maryland, where he gained fame as a punt returner between 2001 and 2004.
Now Zeller is following the same path as one of his idols.
Recruited by many NCAA Division I schools, Zeller made his decision final to attend Maryland next season. The Red Lion High School senior took a trip to College Park Thursday afternoon to accept the Terps' offer of a scholarship in person.
"It went well," he said. "I spoke with the coaches and announced to them that I would like to (verbally) commit and they were all very excited to hear that I was finally going to commit."
Zeller, who moved along with his family to Red Lion five years ago, gained a lot of attention this past season. He has grown into a prototype lineman -- a sturdy 6-foot-5, 290-pound man with agility that is typically seen in much smaller players. He is rated as a three-star recruit, on a five-star scale, by national recruiting services Scout.com and Rivals.com.
"They told me they would do anything to get me to come down," Zeller said of the Maryland coaches, who are attempting to rebuild a Terps' program coming off a 2-10 season.
Ralph Friedgen is entering his 10th season as Maryland's head coach and has a 66-46 career record at College Park. Friedgen's offensive coordinator, James Franklin, has been designated as his eventual successor with the Terps.
Among the other schools to offer Zeller a scholarship were Duke, Oregon and Rutgers, while a number of others showed serious interest, including UConn, Michigan State and Pitt.
But, in the end, it all came down to a feeling.
"The campus life at Maryland just stands out," Zeller said. "It's a wonderful place to be. I've been there three times now and everybody on campus is just upbeat and they love the place. And that's why I fell in love with it."
Zeller, 16, made it a point all along to get the decision out of the way before the start of his senior football season for a couple of reasons.
"It relieves some stress," he said. "Now I don't have to worry about anything else. I can now focus on dominating this upcoming season and just having fun."
Zeller is hoping to help the Lions improve on last year's 4-6 campaign.
His decision was also a popular one with the family. In fact, Andrew's older brother, Tyler, who plays for Lock Haven, was extremely happy for his not-so-little brother.
"(Tyler) is happy for me," Andrew said. "He feels good about it and he likes Maryland as well."
Red Lion head coach Pat Conrad couldn't be happier that everything worked out for Zeller.
"Andrew is a great kid," Conrad said. "He does well in school and he's well liked by his peers. I'm really proud of him."
Zeller has taken his passion for football seriously both on and off the field, as evidenced by a recent growth spurt that saw him go from 6-foot-2, 210 pounds into his current frame. All of the work that went into making that happen is something that really stood out to Conrad and his teammates.
"He has grown a lot over the last two years," Conrad said. "He's worked extremely hard in the weight room. And he's going to be one of our captains, which shows you how much respect the other players and the coaches have for him."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.