LEWISTON – In three days, the next four years of Jared Turcotte’s life begins.

“I’m kind of getting nervous. It’s so soon,” he said.

Turcotte is heading for Orono on Sunday to begin his college football career at the University of Maine. Classes don’t start for another month, so it will be all football, practically all the time for the 2007 Fitzpatrick Trophy winner once training camp commences on Monday.

He has been preparing for this day for much of his life. And with the help of a strength and conditioning program sent down from the Black Bears’ staff that he has followed since playing his last game in a Lewiston uniform last fall, he has gradually been preparing his body for the grind of two-a-day practices and the season ahead.

Even before he takes the field in Orono, Turcotte has already seen the benefits of running an hour to 90 minutes three days a week, lifting two hours four days a week and two days a week of speed and agility drills.

“It’s been time consuming,” Turcotte said. “It just takes a couple of weeks to get used to it. The first week, we had bench and then incline bench in the same day, and I’ve never done that before. So my first incline bench I was dead after doing it. You can tell two weeks later how much your body is reacting to it.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound running back has never been stronger, which is a good start for someone going into Division I-AA football. For example, he said his bench press has improved from 285 pounds when he started the program to a peak of 335 a couple of weeks ago.

The weekly lifting program alternates between two upper-body days and two lower-body days, involving lifts such as the bench and incline bench, squats, front squats and power clean. The weightlifting is complemented by plyometrics, speed and agility drills to make him more explosive.

Turcotte got to see some tangible benefits from the intensive training at last Friday’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. He was the biggest running back on the field and one of the best-conditioned athletes there, too. He got stronger as the game went along. He rushed for 89 of his game-high 186 yards in the fourth quarter and showed even more ability to run through and around tacklers than he did while running for over 1,800 yards last year as a Blue Devil.

“You can definitely tell (the difference). If you keep your legs moving, you can power through a little bit more. The agility and speed work has probably helped the most,” he said.

He’s laid off the weights a little this week because “I’ve got to max out when I get there.” Preseason football camps are notorious for testing players’ physical limits, but Turcotte expects to be able to handle that. He originally thought the physical demands would be the biggest test he faces in the next month “but I guess it’s pretty much all about learning.”

That means burying his nose in a playbook and learning the offensive formations. He’s already sat in on a couple of offensive meetings and, based on that, he thinks the toughest thing will be getting all of the terminology down.

Maine opens its season at home against Monmouth on Sept. 1. Turcotte hasn’t received any guarantees whether he’ll be in the backfield or even in uniform that day, but he’ll know soon enough.

Time flies when you begin a new life.

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