ATLANTA — It was a nice surprise, a really nice surprise.

Alabama’s offensive coordinator and Maryland’s new head coach, Mike Locksley, showed up at the College Football Awards ceremony Saturday night. He popped up behind Jerry Jeudy as he was signing autographs on the College Football Hall of Fame’s red carpet. The two embraced. Jeudy had no idea Locksley was going to be there.

“It means a lot, knowing he’s been my coach for two years,” the wide receiver said. “Me and Coach Locks have a great relationship. It’s great knowing he’s here.”

Said Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, “Being able to see him, that’s special. I’m happy for him. … I do respect him as a person and I just honor everything that he does.”

Jeudy and Tagovailoa made up half of the Crimson Tide posse. Offensive lineman Jonah Williams and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams were also there.

Locksley was wearing a Maryland pin on his lapel but fully supporting his Alabama players.

“It’s surreal for me because it’s a great day for these guys who have been a part of helping me get and reach the goals that I just had of being able to go home to Maryland,” Locksley said. “Seeing Q, Jerry, Tua and Jonah and all the hard work these guys put in for Alabama not just helps those guys but it opened up a great opportunity for me as well.

“I’m very thankful for all of the Alabama experience and excited about the new Maryland experience.”

Locksley’s work with the Crimson Tide isn’t done yet. He will coach through Alabama’s College Football Playoff run, which starts Dec. 29 against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

This isn’t the first time an Alabama assistant accepted a head coaching job before the season was over. Jeremy Pruitt did the same thing last year, doubling as Alabama’s defensive coordinator and Tennessee’s head coach at the end of the season. Locksley is also the Crimson Tide’s fourth offensive coordinator in the past three years.

“You love continuity on your staff, but I always look at this as a challenge and an opportunity to add new energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to your staff,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “We don’t change our program. We don’t hire people to come in and be independent contractors and do what they want to do. They sort of have to buy into what we do, but the new ideas, the new energy and enthusiasm that they bring is always very helpful to improving our program.”

Locksley has led Alabama to an average of 47.9 points per game and at least 500 yards of total offensive in 11 of its 13 games. The Crimson Tide has at least one more game, possibly two and a chance at its 18th national championship title.

Only then will Locksley leave.

“I just spent three of the best years of my coaching career working under what I think is the best coach in all of college football with Nick Saban,” Locksley said. “I’m hoping I’m able to take just a little bit of the things I learned at Alabama and implement them at Maryland and put us on a successful track.”