Lance LeGendre is full of secrets, and even on national signing day, he wasn't ready to spoil everything.
Before he came clean Wednesday morning, revealing at last that he was picking Maryland over Florida State in something of an upset,, the state’s top-rated quarterback in the Class of 2019 strutted down the floor at Warren Easton High School, dressed in red velvet loafers, a black and red floral suit and a red sequin bowtie to match.
It was the type of outfit you wear when you plan on being noticed and you’re prepared for pressure.
Like the first test for an freshman quarterback at a Power Five school.
Eagles coach Jerry Phillips first noticed LeGendre as the gem in a ragtag bunch of freshman football players four years ago, a roster that would send 12 players to play college football — including three to the Division I FBS level. But his future quarterback was different.
“Lance, he’s always been Lance,” Phillips said. “He just had to figure out how to trust his teammates. He could do it all, but once he started trusting his teammates, he really figured out he didn’t have to everything himself. But the talent has always been there.”
Over the past two weeks, LeGendre has been constantly focused on who he could trust at the next level. Since the spring of his sophomore year, he’s picked up six offers from Southeastern Conference programs and eight from other Power Five schools.
The dual-threat quarterback had already committed and decommitted once, and he didn’t want to make a hasty decision again.
“It’s about seeing who’s who and who’s really talking real, cause there’s fake and there’s real, and sometimes you can see through it,” he said.
As he later revealed, his jet-black signing day outfit full of firetruck red accents wasn’t an act of trickery. It looked oddly similar to the midnight black pants and jersey with the red numbers he posted photos of just four days ago on his final official visit.
Still, LeGendre took his time adding the finishing touch, as he reached his hand inside a small blue box, removed two pieces of tissue paper, and slipped on his new hat.
“I’m taking my talents to the University of Maryland,” he said into the microphone, answered by a roar of applause.
But for a young man who holds trust so such high esteem, how could the program that gave him his final offer — just 11 days ago — before his final official visit to College Park over the weekend seal the deal?
“They did a good job really explaining how I’m going to be coached,” he said. “(Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery), he told me, ‘I’m going to coach you hard. I’m going to get on your nerves, call you at 9 p.m. to come to the field and go over things.’
“And that’s real. Don’t hide from me. Tell me now, and I think he did a good job of that.”
Montgomery and Terrapins coach Mike Locksley bring a bevy of knowledge to Maryland. Locksley was named the 2018 Broyles Award winner, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, in his first year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
Before his stint with Alabama, Locksley served as Maryland’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2012-15.
“To have two quarterbacks coaches, you can’t ask for anything more than that,” LeGendre said. “I told them, ‘Coach me.’ I want to be coached. I want them to bring the full potential out of me so I can flourish.”
Locksley had followed LeGendre closely, convincing Nick Saban to extend the 14th-ranked recruit in Louisiana last February. Locksley stayed in contact through a major coaching change, and with national signing day quickly approaching, that left an unmistakable impression on LeGendre.
“He saw something in me before, and when he got here he still showed that interest in me,” he said. “That was a big deal.”
Big enough to snag the nation’s ninth-best dual-threat quarterback away from the supposed favorite for LeGendre’s talents: Florida State. Coach Willie Taggart’s Seminoles had yet to sign a quarterback out of high school during his first two recruiting cycles, and with the team’s dismissal of starter Deondre Francois this weekend, LeGendre was seen as a key target.
Instead, the Easton senior joins a quarterback room that has dealt with its own share of turmoil. Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill have both started at Maryland but suffered season-ending injuries. Bortenschlager has also started eight games in injury relief. But LeGendre was told with the same type of hard work and dedication to breaking down film, he could possibly see the field as a true freshman.
With that comes pressure. Phillips says LeGendre is ready for.
“I told him this new coaching staff, he’s their guy," Phillips said. "You’re the first quarterback they picked, so you’re going to be their guy. It’s pretty much going to be up to him how it plays out these next four or five years.”
If his high school career — including four trips to the Class 4A state semifinals — is any indication, LeGendre may need another flashy outfit for a star-studded ceremony in four years. Until then, he’ll keep the origin of Wednesday’s suit a secret before he’s thrust into the spotlight in College Park.
“I can’t tell you that,” he said with a grin.