COLLEGE PARK – University of Maryland’s top draft prospect, Will Likely, went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Despite being the Terps’ most decorated player in recent history, the All-American defensive back did not hear his name called in Philadelphia.
The 5-foot-7, 175-pound weapon from Belle Glade, Fla., known as “Muck City,” a talent-rich area in South Florida, was reportedly seen at the New York Jets’ minicamp this past weekend, according to New York Daily News reporter Daniel Ropper. Likely was not initially included in a list of 39 players invited to the minicamp that was announced by the Jets.
Likely has been recovering from a torn ACL he suffered midway through the season on a kickoff vs. Minnesota on Oct. 15. He finished the 2016 season with one sack, one fumble and 32 tackles (22 solo), including a career-high 14 tackles in an overtime victory at Central Florida.
“It was a big hit to our team both on the field and off,” said senior safety Josh Woods. “He was a great leader and the person to watch if you wanted to get better.”
Likely received praise and sorrow from fans, teammates and coaches alike following the news of his injury. Even ESPN midnight anchor and Maryland alum Scott Van Pelt took to Twitter to offer comfort to Likely, stating, “@4GoLive Stay up, 4. You are a great Terp.”
Likely was invited to the NFL Combine in early March, the lone Terp to do so, and was able to meet with teams to talk about his injury and show his physical progression. Ranked as the 32nd best prospect at cornerback, and still projected to go undrafted, Likely had one last opportunity to improve his draft stock.
Displaying a testament of his will and determination, Likely worked out at Maryland’s Pro Day, an NFL Combine-like workout for prospective athletes to showcase their abilities in front of dozens of coaches and scouts. Likely made the most of his workout, performing various footwork and defensive back drills with a heavy knee brace on just five months after initially tearing his ACL.
“It was awesome just to see him back out there,” said Jasmin Grimes, a senior student-assistant athletic trainer. “He was so down after the injury, so it was great to watch him play football again.”
Rated as a high three-star recruit in 2013, Likely committed to Maryland in December of 2012 spurning schools like Miami, Florida and Florida State. In his junior season, Likely was named the 2011-2012 Gatorade Football Player of the Year.
He followed with even more success at Maryland, leaving with dozens of accolades. As a sophomore, Likely earned first team All-Big Ten honors by the coaches and the media while totaling 83 tackles (66 solo) and was tied for first in the conference with six interceptions. He also broke a 76-year-old Big Ten single-game punt return yards record with 233 yards vs. Richmond in 2015.
Despite the heightened from the nation and his opponents, Likely took home more hardware in his junior season. In 2015, he was named first team All-Big Ten Returner by the Coaches and Media, first team All-Big Ten Defensive Back (coaches), second team All-Big Ten Defensive Back (media) and won the Big Ten Rodgers Dwight Return Specialist of the Year Award, presented to the best returner in the conference.
Likely also holds numerous Maryland records, including: single-season interception return yards (170, 2014), single-season interceptions returned for touchdowns (2, 2014) and single-game kickoff return yards (228 vs. Michigan State, 2014), courtesy of Maryland Athletics. His home-run ability turned him into one of the most dangerous returners in college football.
To bolster Likely’s résumé, he was named as one of the Top 6 most versatile players in college football by NFL.com and played and started on offense and defense for the Terps in 2015 and 2016. He ended his collegiate career with six total return touchdowns (four punts, two kicks and two interceptions) and finished second in school history with 2,233 career kickoff return yards. In 43 games played, he amassed 229 tackles, five forced fumbles, two sacks and seven interceptions.
Seen as a jack-of-all-trades, Likely’s versatility and playmaking ability will certainly be attractive to NFL coaches as he looks to make a roster carve out a role on his future team.
Likely’s height is often viewed as a “weakness” in his game. However, he has used that as motivation for his entire life and has played the game with a chip on his shoulder.
Not lacking confidence and heart, Likely knows what he can bring to the NFL. “Straight playmaking,” he said in a statement. “You are looking at a person that is going to compete every single play. If that’s what you want, I’m you guy.”
His current Twitter bio reads, “Somewhere beating the odds…”