Following quarterback Andrew Maxwellâ€™s tepid 2012 campaign, Spartan Nation has a hankering for a star quarterback. Damion Terry just might satisfy that craving if Maxwell, Connor Cook or Tyler Oâ€™Connor donâ€™t get it done.
An incoming recruit of MSUâ€™s 2013 class, Terry is a talented young playmaker. A dual threat quarterback, Terry led Erie Cathedral Prep to the Pennsylvania Class AAA Championship in 2012. Throwing for a whopping 3,599 yards and 50 touchdowns on the season, Terry showed that he can lead his team to victory with his arm. A hard worker blessed with natural ability, the incoming freshman has all the tools to be Michigan Stateâ€™s quarterback of the future. Terry recently talked to Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio, covering a wide variety of topics including lessons learned from 2012, the upcoming quarterback competition and Spartan Nationâ€™s quick embrace of the youngster.
One goal Terry was dead set on accomplishing at the beginning of the 2012 season was winning the state title. Thanks to the seniorâ€™s spectacular effort, the Ramblers of Erie Cathedral Prep took home the prize. â€œI canâ€™t even put it into words. Itâ€™s an amazing feeling, itâ€™s so surreal to me and my teammates right now,â€ Terry said. â€œItâ€™ll probably hit me when we get our ring, but itâ€™s just an amazing feeling.â€
Despite the championship and Terryâ€™s incredible season, he still believes â€œthereâ€™s always room for improvementâ€¦I know last year , I did alright, but I didnâ€™t really put in all the work I needed to [in order] to be a good quarterback. I especially worked on that in the offseason and it really showed off this year.â€
A characteristic quarterbacks need to have is coolness under pressure, a quality Terry learned during his senior year. â€œAlways stay calm and poised, especially at the position I play in: it helps a lot.â€ When asked how Terry developed the skill to stay poised in the pocket, he responded: â€œI canâ€™t even tell you, honestly. Itâ€™s just a natural ability I have. I just always have that feeling, like when the pocketâ€™s closing down I know I have to get out of there, or if a defenderâ€™s draping on my back, somehow Iâ€™m able to get away from it.â€ Terry went on, â€œAnd itâ€™s kind of weird too because my favorite team is the Steelers and one of my favorite players is Ben Roethlisberger, and heâ€™s known for that. So I just try to pick up some things from him and try to translate it over into my game.â€
MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio told the recruit after the season that the backup spot would be for grabs, but not the starting job. Following the bowl game, however, the job is wide open. Though he holds a lot of respect for the current starter, Andrew Maxwell, Terry is eager to compete for the starting spot. While watching the recent Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl between MSU and TCU, Terry was more concerned with the teamâ€™s performance than with seeing competition open up. â€œIâ€™m always cheering them on because I want us to do well, along with win. When I was watching Andrew, I knew he was struggling a little, though he made a lot of good throws. In the back of my head, I was going, â€˜Yes, all of this is competition.â€™ But thatâ€™s not who I am: Iâ€™m just trying to root for them and make sure he does good. And then when Connor came in, same thing,â€ the incoming freshman said. â€œ[Cook] came up clutch for us. Everyone wants to compete and everyone wants to play as soon as possible, but youâ€™re always rooting for your team to win. And I feel like the coaches will always put the best personâ€¦on the field.â€
Knowing that the top spot is available at quarterback, Terry understands that he will have to work hard in the offseason to earn the opportunity to compete for the starting role. â€œKnowing that I actually could start next yearâ€¦ itâ€™s really crazy to think of. But I know thereâ€™s a lot of hard work I need to do in order to get myself, my mindset, my body right for next year, to be prepared for it.â€
A major part of becoming a starter is pouring over lots of film and spending extra time in the film room. Terry will have no trouble with this aspect at Michigan State, as the talented QB is an admitted film junkie. â€œTechnologyâ€™s advanced right now, so we have iPads at my school and we have this app where we can just watch film all day, at any time,â€ explained Terry. â€œItâ€™s a new program, itâ€™s really helped a lot. I just love watching film. During class, when we have some extra time at the end, Iâ€™m always watching our next opponent or watching the previous game to see where I can get better.â€
When watching Michigan State play, though, Terry likes to watch the games for pleasure rather than business. â€œUsually Iâ€™m just watching it as a fan, trying to enjoy it, trying to get away from that point of football a little bit,â€ he said. At times, though, Terry does look at the tape more closely. â€œSometimes I might rewind it a bit to see what the coverage was on the play or what [the quarterback] was looking atâ€¦ just to see if he made the right read or anything like that.â€
Many would assume that Terryâ€™s dual threat ability would be wasted in Dantonioâ€™s pro style offensive scheme. While Dantonio will keep the foundation of his offense the same, he is open to implementing small changes in the offense to suit his talent. With Damion Terry at quarterback, one new type of play to the MSU offense might be the read option, a play Terry excels at. â€œItâ€™s a natural ability I have and a good instinct I have: I just know when the d[efensive] end is going to close or what heâ€™s been doing the previous plays, if heâ€™s been closing or just running up field. I just put that in my mind before a read option play,â€ the young playmaker said. â€œReally, Iâ€™m just good with the ball in my hands. Iâ€™ve got good chemistry with all of my running backs, they know when Iâ€™m going to give it or when Iâ€™m going to keep it. Thatâ€™s one of my favorite playsâ€¦weâ€™ve been running this year and I hope we have that next year in the playbook, too.â€
Even though the youngster has yet to take a snap for Michigan State, the Spartan Nation has fully embraced Terry. With over 4,200 followers on Twitter, many of them MSU fans, Terry has been feeling the love. â€œI know they watch my film and stuff, but how much they actually know about me and how some people want me to actually start next year, even though theyâ€™ve never seen me play and stuff like thatâ€¦it is kind of amazing,â€ Terry said. â€œItâ€™s kind of crazy, but I like it — I love the Michigan State fans.â€
Terryâ€™s surprise at the Spartan Nationâ€™s warm welcome does not mean that the 17-year-old is unused to having lots of fans. â€œWe have great school spirit, so usually when I look up, I see a ton of orange and black. We have the best student section I think in the world. Our student section is crazy, they come out to every game,â€ Terry claimed. â€œSometimes Iâ€™ll notice a little green and white and Iâ€™ll go â€˜Wow, people really are coming to see me.â€™ It just hits me that this is real and next year, my next football game will be againstâ€¦Western Michigan. Itâ€™s just crazy to me, it hasnâ€™t hit me yet.â€