LEWISTON – Jared Turcotte has never been shy about professing his love for his friends, family and community.

When asked to describe what he was looking for in a college, Turcotte would often talk about a small town, or a small, close-knit community within the school.

He’s found what he was looking for, and after all of his searching, the Lewiston High School football star didn’t have to go very far to find it.

Turcotte verbally committed Wednesday to play football next fall for the University of Maine, ending months of speculation on the subject.

“It came down to Bucknell and Maine,” Turcotte said Wednesday. “It was about the comfort factor,” he said. “I went down to Bucknell a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn’t as comfortable there.”

Turcotte, this year’s recipient of the Fitzpatrick Award as the best all-around graduating high school football player, had plenty more to research, though.

“Jared did a great job at looking everywhere,” Lewiston High School coach Bill County said. “He was impressed with Maine from the beginning of the process, though, you could tell. (Maine) Coach (Jack) Cosgrove did a great job of personalizing the process for him.”

Turcotte also looked at Division I-A schools in the Ivy League (Brown, Harvard and Dartmouth) and Patriot League (Holy Cross), and at Division III schools in the NESCAC (Bates and Bowdoin).

Familiarity and the chance to shine on a national stage eventually won out.

“Being able to compete at that level, and then if the team does well at that level and makes the playoffs, that’s national news,” Turcotte said. “That would be crazy. I’m so excited just to have that opportunity to play at such a high level.”

When it came down to it, though, after he thought for a moment, Turcotte found that his underlying reason for wanting to go to Maine was much simpler.

“There are a lot of people, my friends, other teams from Maine, that go to see Maine play every year,” Turcotte said. “I have friends going there, too. It just feels right.”

County was impressed by his former star’s patience through the process.

“He was anxious to make the decision early,” County said. “But it was actually Cosgrove who told him to slow down and enjoy the process. I think because of that, he trusted Cosgrove, and that’s ultimately what won him over.”

But just because Turcotte has been patient in his decision process, doesn’t mean he hasn’t already started thinking ahead to the fall.

“I need to hit the weight room this spring,” Turcotte said. “I want to gain 15 to 20 pounds before I get to campus. I am at 220, and I want to be 235 or 240.”

Turcotte also said he’s already started looking at some game film from Maine, getting to know some of the basic terminology the team uses. According to the young back, the team’s first inclination is to use him as an h-back – a utility running back that lines up both in the backfield and on the end of the line as a split end.

“They said I have the size to be a smaller tight end, and the speed to be a tailback,” Turcotte said. “I guess I’ll have to wait to see what they want from me when I get there.”

At Lewiston, Turcotte was County’s workhorse, amassing 1,813 yards (putting him over 4,000 yards for his career) and 17 touchdowns on 229 carries.

He also showed his versatility by catching four TD passes and throwing one, and on defense dominated as a linebacker and defensive end, totaling 113 solo tackles, returning an interception and recovering a fumble for touchdowns.

“If they want me to play defense, obviously I will,” Turcotte said. “I like the game of football, but I do like playing on the offensive side of the ball better.”

“I obviously think he’s a great runner, I gave him almost 40 carries a game,” quipped County, “so I think we’re on the same page.”

And while County and Turcotte were both obviously excited, both were guarded about predicting immediate success.

“Like any athlete, there’s always the prospect that he’ll face a rude awakening,” County said. “But he’s such a level-headed kid, if anyone can pull this off, it will be him.”

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