BLOOMSBURG - Ryan Maggs couldn't bring himself to walk into Bloomsburg University head coach Danny Hale's office and tell him he was leaving.
His one year in the Huskies' lineup as a fullback in 2008 was quite a promising one. He played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman as a backup to starter Stefan Adams and was exactly what Bloomsburg needed in its fullback rotation.
The Central Mountain graduate knew what was ahead for him at Bloomsburg University, but he thought he was capable of more and wanted to test himself. So he wrote a long email to Hale, the Huskies' head coach for the last 22 seasons, explaining why he was transferring to Penn State to try and walk-on their football team.
He eventually got in to Hale's office to talk to him about his decision. Hale explained that although he would be missed, he understood why Maggs was leaving and told him the door to return would always be open with no hard feelings.
So here was Maggs on Saturday morning at Redman Stadium, donning the white jersey, gold pants and maroon helmet of the Huskies' practice uniform for the first time since the fall of 2008, a Husky once again. Although things didn't work out for the 6-foot-2, 232-pounder at Penn State like he had hoped, he was glad to give himself a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
"In high school my dream was always to go into games at Penn State. I just always wanted to be there to play," Maggs said after Saturday's annual Maroon and Gold spring football game at Bloomsburg University. "I made the decision that I had to try. I wasn't big enough in high school to try, but I got big enough here and figured I'd go give it a try. No what-ifs, you know?"
Maggs transferred to State College in the spring of 2009 and tried out for the Nittany Lions as a walk-on in the fall of the same year. He was one of about 150 walk-ons vying for a spot with the Nittany Lions and he impressed the coaches enough that they brought him into the offices following the try-out to talk to him.
But when they found out he had just two years of eligibility left, they decided not to put him on the team. It was a disappointing result for Maggs, but he was getting good grades at Penn State - even better than he had while at Bloomsburg - and figured he would just finish out his schooling there.
"It was really disappointing because being there and of being that close to my dream," Maggs said. "But when I left, coach Hale said I could always come back with open arms, no hard feelings or anything. That made it easier to leave. If they were going to be like, 'Well, if you go, you're not going to have a chance if you come back' then I probably would have stayed. But they decided to give me a chance and I had to give it a chance."
"People make those decisions based on trying to challenge himself at the highest level. I can't blame him," Bloomsburg University offensive coordinator Tom Pajic said. "We're glad to have him back."
Maggs missed the game as he stayed at Penn State expecting to finish out his degree there. He figured his career was done.
But then came a trip to Ohio to see the Kansas City Chiefs play. Bloomsburg fullback Matt Cox is the brother of Chiefs fullback Mike Cox and the two made the trip to Ohio to see him play. And in that one game, Maggs realized what he was missing by not playing football anymore.
"It made me miss it so bad that the next day I called (Bloomsburg University offensive line coach Brian McBryan) and said, 'Can I come back?'" Maggs said. "Thankfully he said yes.
It took Maggs only one film session this spring to get himself reacquainted to the Huskies' offense. After all, not much changes in the sprint-draw offense Hale has used to become one of the most successful and consistent programs in the PSAC over the last 20-plus years. And Maggs is returning to an offense in which he played in all 13 games in 2008.
That season he carried the ball 11 times for 80 yards including a 41-yard run against Millersville. About the only things that have changed since then are the Huskies' use of a one-back formation that it began to use more and more with former fullback Stefan Adams.
You see, Maggs isn't a traditional fullback, especially in the Huskies' system. Bloomsburg fullbacks are often stockier than Maggs' 6-foot-2 frame. But Maggs brings a different dimension to the position after running for 1,557 yards at Central Mountain his senior year. So with starting fullback Matt Cox missing Saturday's spring game, Maggs got the opportunity to split most of the duties with the first team with Selinsgrove graduate Matt Wenrich. And Maggs was not only showcased as a lead blocker for returning 2,000-yard rusher Franklyn Quiteh and Stony Brook transfer Eduardo Mateo, but also as a ball carrier and pass catcher.
Maggs carried three times for 22 yards, including runs of 9 and 11 yards. His first carry came as the tailback in the I-formation on third-and-1 and his 2-yard run picked up the first down. His second carry came from the shotgun, one-back set where he took a draw for 9 yards. And his final carry was from the same formation that went for 11 yards on the last play of the first half. Add in the 22 yards on his two receptions - one being a screen pass - and his 44 yards on five touches were the fourth-most yards from scrimmage in the game.
"I'm not a traditional fullback, obviously," Maggs said. "I think they're going to put me in the one back a lot more and give me the ball that way. I don't know how that will go in the fall with Frankie and everything, but I think they're looking to use me in that one-back role."
Maggs gives the Huskies three fullbacks that are interchangeable at any point in a game. And that's a necessary commodity in a Bloomsburg offense that ran the football 610 times a year ago (49 per game average). The wear and tear of the season calls for the Huskies to use multiple fullbacks and tailbacks because of the pounding they take.
"For four quarters and 60 minutes we're coming right at you," Pajic said. "We're running stretch, we're running iso, we're running downhill at your seven guys. Over time I think that takes its toll. We're a Northeast team. It's cold, it's rainy, we're a postseason team and here we are coming right at you, and the fullbacks are right there to help make us go."