It might have been said best in the movie Wedding Crashers: "Crab cakes and football. That's what Maryland does!"
Such an expression might cause eyes to roll or out-of-town fans to scoff. And while no one is debating the allure of crab cakes in the Free State, football prospects are not widely known to come out of Maryland like they do from Texas, Pennsylvania or Ohio.
But when local fans aren't watching the Ravens, there have been a fair number of players to follow from local high schools and colleges. Fans don't need to look any further than the annual NFL Scouting Combine, taking place in Indianapolis this week.
Prospects from around the country have been invited to participate in drills, exercises and interviews to gauge how successful they would be in the National Football League. Their performances often influence where and even if they are selected during the NFL Draft.
In the past, Maryland has produced such NFL standouts as E.J. Henderson (Aberdeen High School), former Raven Tommy Polley (Dunbar H.S.), Victor Abiamiri (Gilman School), Leigh Bodden (Northwestern H.S.) and Shawn Merriman (Frederick Douglas H.S.).
This year, that tradition could continue.
University of Maryland star receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a product of McDonough School in Owings Mills, is widely predicted to be a first-round selection. He is currently ranked as the third-best receiver available this year by NFL Network's Mike Maylock and the fifth-best by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
Heyward-Bey currently stands at 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, was a two-time all-ACC selection while playing for the Terrapins and was an honorable mention all-American by *Pro Football Weekly *in 2007. He finished his college career with 2,041 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches, tying for third in school history.
In addition, the speedster came away third in Terps history in receptions (138) and second in career yards (2,089). According to his former head coach, Ralph Friedgen, Heyward-Bey's intangibles are "off the charts."
Maylock also ranks Penn State outside linebacker Aaron Maybin as the fourth best available at his position. Originally from Ellicott City, Maybin attended Mt. Hebron High School, and may also be a first-round pick.
"[He is] only 235 pounds, but boy does he have explosive quickness off the edge," Maylock recently said in an on-air interview. Maylock also noted he has a lot of upside if the 220-pounder gain some weight.
Maybin was a first team All-Big Ten honoree in 2008 for the Nittany Lions as a defensive end, ranking fourth in the country in sacks with 12 and sixth in tackles with 20 for losses.
Another local talent, Maybin's fellow Nittany Lion Derrick Williams of Greenbelt, MD, could go as high as the second round.
Williams also earned All-Big Ten Honors in 2008, his senior season. Measuring 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, Williams has the speed and athletic potential to be a big-time playmaker. Though he only hauled in 40 catches and three touchdowns in 2008, Williams made a notable impact on the Senior Bowl last month, where he led all players with 124 total yards, 89 of them on kickoff returns.
Williams attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School before Penn State, where he played with fellow Greenbelt resident Will Davis, another Combine participant.
Davis, who played defensive end at the University of Illinois, had a big season in 2007. He earned second-team All-Big Ten Honors after accounting for 12.5 tackles. Though his production stumbled in 2008, he could be selected in the later rounds.
Lastly, Walkersville native Tony Fiammetta, who played fullback at Syracuse, is also projected to be taken on the draft's second day. Fiammetta helped teammate Curtis Brinkley rush for 1,000 yards last season. At 6-feet-0 and 246 pounds, and with his blocking and receiving skills, the fullback could potentially get a lot of looks from professional teams.
With the date of the NFL Draft rapidly approaching (April 25 and 26), fans will know soon enough if these sons of Maryland join the ranks of football's best. The expectations for each player vary, and they will likely be taken at different times throughout draft weekend. Hometown heroes often strike a cord with the people of Maryland. If these players show they can perform at the Combine, expect the Old Line State to keep its prominent place on the map.