PORTLAND – When he was 14, Jared Turcotte received a book award from his 8th grade football coach, Fred Royer, at a year-end awards banquet. Inside the book was a bookmark, on which Royer had written, “To Jared: a true Fitzpatrick candidate.”

There was only one problem. Jared Turcotte had no idea what a Fitzpatrick was.

“I asked him after the banquet what the award was, and he said ‘It’s the Heisman Trophy of Maine,'” Turcotte recalled Sunday night. “I said ‘Whoa. All right, that’s my goal.'”

Turcotte reached his goal at another football banquet Sunday night. Four years after first learning of the James J. Fitzpatrick Award, the Lewiston star running back became the 36th winner of the prestigious award before a crowd of 250 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.

“It’s a pretty indescribable feeling I’ve got right now,” Turcotte said moments after receiving the award and receiving congratulations from family, friends, teammates and coaches.

“All the weights I lifted, all the sprints that I ran, every day I was working to achieve this goal and to actually achieve (it) is just incredible,” he added.

Turcotte beat out fellow finalists Aaron Champagne of Lawrence and Chris Treister of Portland and became the third Lewiston High School player to earn the award. Gerry Raymond won it in 1977 and Brian Seguin in 1987.

A team captain at running back, linebacker and safety (as well as punt and kickoff duties), Turcotte gained 1,813 yards this season while scoring 17 touchdowns. With touchdown catches, throws and defensive scores included, he accounted for 23 TDs this year for the Blue Devils while leading them to the Pine Tree Conference playoffs.

Turcotte said he took pride in not only the recognition of his football exploits, but his work in the classroom and the community. His 92.9 grade average ranks him 27th in a class of 318 students, and he’s played an active role in the implementation of the Sports Done Right initiative and the Hate-Violence Prevention Student Leadership Team at LHS.

“(The award) represents not only the obvious football aspect of it. It represents more to me because it takes into consideration what you’ve done in the classroom and what you have done in the community,” he said. “I’m a big Lewiston guy. I kind of plan on coming back after college and hanging around Lewiston pretty long. I hope this brings a lot of the excitement back … not only to Lewiston football but to Lewiston athletics in general.”

“It’s a great thing for our school and for our community, as well as Jared,” Lewiston football coach Bill County said.

County said Turcotte, a three-year starter at Lewiston, played with leadership, faith, discipline and humility during his high school career and has served, and will continue to serve, as a role model for young people in Lewiston.

“Obviously, his academics are strong and he values that,” County said while clutching his star player’s (and sometimes baby-sitter’s) trophy. “Not only does that make him strong in the classroom, but as a role model for other kids.”

“He talks a lot about his teammates. He talks a lot about how he couldn’t accomplish this without other people,” he added, “but the truth is, he has lent so much to those young people. I mean, he really is a tremendous role model. His legacy will continue for years.”

Turcotte is being recruited aggressively by Division 1-AA colleges, including Maine, Bucknell, Holy Cross and, a late-comer, Georgetown. He postponed a campus visit to Orono this past weekend to focus on Sunday night’s ceremonies but plans to go there and to visit at least one more school (Bucknell) in the coming weeks. He plans to study pre-med and hopes to join a program where he can continue to play running back.

Before focusing on the next four years of his career, though, he’ll probably do some reflecting on the last three years.

“This is the best way you can cap off your senior year and your whole high school football career,” said Turcotte, who ran for more than 4,500 yards and 56 touchdowns in his high school career. “You can’t top it off any better than this.”

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