Throughout his high school career at McDonogh, Maryland offensive lineman Ellis McKennie tried his best to annoy his friends and teammates on “Purple Friday” during the NFL season.
Like environmentalists and Kermit the Frog, McKennie went green.
Specifically, he sported the predominant color of his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles. He took ribbing from his classmates, especially in 2013, when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII.
“I was a little quiet,” recalled McKennie, who as a fifth-year senior at Maryland remains in the not-so-silent minority among his teammates, many of whom are fans of the Ravens and Washington Redskins. “The past two years I’ve been a little louder about my Eagles.”
When he was even younger, McKennie was part of a club for young Eagles fans and wrote a letter in a contest that won him tickets to a 2004 game in Philadelphia against the Ravens. The Eagles won, 15-10.
“I just remember going down before the game, all the cheerleaders were down there and stuff, getting to watch the players run out,” McKennie said. “The thing I won, I was on the big screen during the game. That was an exciting moment being at ‘The Linc.’ ”
Grew up in McSherrystown: McKennie will get a different experience Saturday, when No. 21 Maryland (2-0) plays Temple (1-0) at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It’ll be cool just being there where the Eagles play every week,” said McKennie, who grew up in McSherrystown in Adams County. “I usually watch it on TV. It will be exciting being there for myself. My dad’s family is from there, so I’ll have a lot of family at the game.”
And unlike last year, when most of the attention he received was for waving the flag carrying the jersey number of his late high school and college teammate, Jordan McNair, after the season opener, McKennie has become the most versatile member of Maryland’s offensive line.
A Swiss Army knife: After making three starts last season at right tackle, McKennie started the season opener at left tackle, splitting time there with redshirt freshman Jaelyn Duncan. McKennie’s ability to play any position on the line has made the 6-foot-4, 310-pound senior one of the most valuable players on the team, according to coach Mike Locksley.
It has helped Maryland remain effective while masking its lack of depth and experience on the offensive line, which lost three longtime starters in the offseason.
After finishing 17th in the nation and third in the Big Ten in rushing last year with a little over 230 yards a game, the Terps are fourth in the country and first in the Big Ten with 335.5 yards per game this season. Graduate transfer quarterback Josh Jackson has only been sacked once.
“Ellis is a guy, he’s like a Swiss Army knife. He does so many things,” Locksley said after last week’s 63-20 win over then-No. 21 Syracuse. “He’s like a sixth starter. He pretty much starts for us and it [allows] us to keep fresh players on the field up front because we don’t have a lot of depth.”