Nchami Eager to Return After Regaining Full Health

After missing just a pair of games his freshman year, linebacker Durell Nchami missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn ACL during the preseason. The former Paint Branch star returned during the COVID-ridden 2020 season and made a pair of starts in three appearances after finishing tied for third on the team in tackles for loss and second in sacks. The injury bug struck again last fall after suffering a season-ending upper-body injury that sidelined Nchami for the final seven games.
Now heading into the 2022 season as a veteran, Nchami isn’t taking his health for granted as he’s now the leader in Maryland’s front seven. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m super happy,” Nchami said after Tuesday’s practice. “Spring I was a little like sad. I wasn’t out here but now, I’m super blessed to be back, just be back with my teammates and working every day.” He’ll lead a linebacker room with ample talent but some familiar faces with former Alabama and West Virginia linebacker VanDarius Cowan starting opposite of him, but after being cleared ahead of summer workouts, Nchami has gotten back into his groove.
“It’s a little tough process with the shoulder, gaining it back, but I’m just finally happy that I’m 100% healthy. This is the healthiest I ever felt, to be honest, even with my knee, my shoulder, my body in general. So, you know, it’s been a super blessing.” Nchami has embraced the veteran role he now steps into, but he’d be remised if he didn’t acknowledge the journey to reach this point in his career. “Looking back freshman year, I used to be like, damn man, you’re old but now I’m the older guy. So, it’s kind of cool. You know, just being the older guy, you know, being the guy people look up to, being the team leader, you know, just working out every day and just trying to be the best version of myself.”
While Maryland returns experience across the linebacker room with Fa’Najae Gotay, Ruben Hyppolite and Gereme Spraggins back in the fold, one freshman who has continued to draw glowing comments since enrolling in January is former blue-chip prospect Jaishawn Barham.
“He’s gonna be a grown man. Like he’s gonna be like that. He’s definitely put in the work. I’ve definitely seen him take steps from the spring even to now from his body, his like mental game, his development. He’s definitely gonna be something great here.” His comments mirror what Ruben Hyppolite said just one week ago. “The way he dissects plays, how he moves within the box and then how he makes plays,” Hyppolite added during last week’s media availability. “He’s always around the ball. He’s very special with that.”
Maryland enters the season with the possibility of having multiple NFL prospects in the 2023 Draft and Nchami’s name has been routinely mentioned when it comes to the top edge rusher prospects. Pro Football Focus ranked Nchami as the eighth-best NFL draft prospect in the Big Ten this summer, but Nchami took the time away from the game to gather a different perspective on his IQ of the game. “I missed some time to develop over the years ‘cause of the injuries so I really took time [in the] offseason, really studying and really work on my techniques so I can get more technically sound and hopefully that’ll carry me throughout the season.”
Still, Nchami isn’t letting the lofty draft hype get to his head.
“I see it, but you know, I know I still got put into work, you know [because] at the end of the day, none that really means anything. I can still, you know, fall down whatever on those lists. So, I gotta really just put into work, stay humble, you know, just keep grinding. That’s all I can do.”
Despite playing in six games last fall, Nchami finished with nine tackles and finished fourth on the team in sacks, including a pair against Illinois.