ORONO – Most Maine football players aspiring to suit up for the state university show up at their first summer camp a step slow and a size small. Within a day or two, they acquire lockjaw from walking around with their heads down and their eyes and mouths wide open.

The saving grace is usually a redshirt year. An overmatched recruit can go to class, camp out in the weight room and memorize terminology without having to worry about precious time and eligibility slipping away.

Jordan Stevens didn’t have that luxury in his first season with the Black Bears.

Didn’t need it.

Upon his graduation from Mt. Blue High School, the two-way player from Temple took his show on the road to Bridgton Academy for a year of prep school. Stevens got bigger, stronger, faster, older and wiser away from the fish bowl and took his sweet time choosing where to receive his college education.

“I think that helped out a lot,” said Stevens, now a 20-year-old sophomore who is prone to such simple, straight-forward statements.

The proof is in the bold print on Maine’s depth chart.

In his second Division I-AA season, when most small-town hopefuls are trotting onto the field for the first time and hoping to make their impact as a special teams wedge buster or third-team something-or-other, Stevens is battling for a starting spot as Maine’s “rover” outside linebacker in its 3-4 alignment.

“He’s competing with one of our seniors, Jamaal Forman,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. “He’s going to play a lot of football this year for us on defense and on special teams.”

An all-state performer at running back, inner receiver and linebacker for coach Gary Parlin at Mt. Blue, Stevens centered his attention on defense in his prep year under Rick Marcella at Bridgton.

“The benefit to Jordan was the year at Bridgton. I said that to our staff when I went down to the Bridgton combine,” Cosgrove said. “When I came back, I said that Jordan Stevens was far and away the best player they had, and he was the only one we were interested in.”

Now a sturdy 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Stevens played all 11 games as a true freshman on special teams. He made four total tackles, including two solo stops.

Stevens’ work as a reserve linebacker didn’t go unnoticed, either. He won Maine’s Thurlow Cooper Defensive Rookie of the Year honor.

“I’m still playing special teams and just competing, trying to get myself on the field every day and just get better,” Stevens said. “There’s a competition every day. You’ve got to come ready to go.”

Cosgrove anticipated that Stevens was up to that task after his visit to Bridgton. The majority of Maine’s in-state recruits are tendered partial scholarships or afforded preferred walk-on status. Stevens was immediately offered a full scholarship.

He paid a token visit or two to competing Division I-AA schools before settling on the campus less than two hours from home.

“I think he took those couple of visits mostly based on the fact that he’s a Maine kid. You know, ‘What else is out there?’ I felt very good about getting Jordan from the get-go,” Cosgrove said. “He played right away for us last year at a lot of positions.”

Stevens has spent most of his time in the strength and conditioning program working on the element of football that is hardest to coach.

“Speed,” he said. “It’s definitely all about getting faster and learning the defense. Getting bigger, also, but getting faster is the big thing.”

If quickness is a hallmark of Stevens’ game, so is quietness.

“He’s passionate, he’s hard working, and on top of it all he’s pretty darn good. He can play. But he doesn’t say much,” Cosgrove said. “If you can get him to speak in an interview, you’re doing well.”

Well, there’s one trick. Stevens doesn’t rush to babble about himself. But go ahead and ask his expectations for the Black Bears’ defense.

Maine learned last year that the fine line between a conference championship and a 6-5 season was equivalent to two or three plays. And that didn’t sit well with Stevens, who’s accustomed to winning at every level.

“We’re all committed to winning the conference, coming out and winning every game. Defensively, we should really dominate. We have the best defense,” Stevens said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.