WINTHROP — Jake Umberhind wasn’t done dressing for practice when he left the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale locker room for an interview.

“Don’t judge me for the socks,” he said, motioning to the two black socks of different lengths on his feet.

Like anyone would notice the socks. With Umberhind, the attention goes instead to the powerful 330-pound frame, or the calves as big as tree trunks, or the mullet that looks lifted from a 1980s sitcom.

It’s a snapshot of Umberhind as a football player: A comedian, a character, and one of the best linemen in the state.

“I just like dominating over people,” said Umberhind, a senior. “It’s just so fun, to know that you can manhandle some guy and throw him to the ground. It’s so enjoyable to me. It energizes me every time I do that.”

As the Ramblers’ top guard and defensive tackle, he gets to do that often.

“If you don’t double-team him, he’s going to be in the backfield making plays,” coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “He’s got a ton of energy. Offensively, when he starts pulling and trapping, it’s pretty devastating when he blindsides a trapper. You don’t have to worry that there’s going to be a hold. Just trust Jake to make the block.”

Umberhind is the Ramblers’ Paul Bunyan, a force who can bench press 345 pounds, squat 485 and deadlift 610, and who can throw 45-pound plates around, St. Hilaire said, “like they’re movie props.” He’s been a starter on defense since his freshman year, and in 2019 had a team-high 16 tackles for loss while notching three sacks.

Jacob Umberhind, a senior on the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football team, is one of the top linemen in central Maine, if not the state. Photo provided by Lori Umberhind

“You know they’re not going through his hole. They’re going someplace else,” St. Hilaire said. “He’s coming through and making a play in the backfield if you don’t have two guys on him. There was one play last week where he was triple-teamed.”

His play on the offensive line, though, has caught up. Originally a tackle, Umberhind moved to guard, to his — and the Rambler running backs’ — enjoyment.

“I love running behind him,” senior Logan Baird said. “You just get right on his back, follow him up the hole, you’re going for at least five more yards than you get without him.”

“This year, honestly, I like offensive line a lot,” Umberhind added. “I’ve always been the big tackle, but now I get to pull and smack people in the face. It’s kind of fun now.”

Pulling on runs has become an Umberhind specialty.

“You get him out in space, and it’s just not a good matchup for kids,” St. Hilaire said.

He’s the pillar on the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale lines, but Umberhind has another role on the team. He’s the one keeping the mood light, and breaking up the stress that in football can pile up. Whether it’s due to his wearing a too-tight shirt to practice or poking fun at someone, everyone comes away with an Umberhind story.

“Jake’s always keeping the team upbeat. He’s a big, funny guy,” Baird said. “He’s always making jokes and stuff. If something funny happens, he’s always there to keep the joke going. If one of the coaches messes up on something, he’s picking on the coach.”

Umberhind said humor belongs on a football team.

“I love cracking jokes because it’s a tough sport,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like ‘God, this is rough.’ You’ve got to have some brightness in your life. You’re dying from the heat and the exhaustion from a two-hour practice. I like to lighten it up a bit.”

Monmouth cheerleader Jacob Umberhind, right, holds onto the ankle of a teammate during a routine at Monmouth Academy. Umberhind is a senior lineman on the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football team. Photo provided by Michelle Rooney

When Umberhind started showing up to practice with his mullet, it didn’t take long for five or six of the Ramblers to start wearing their hair the same way.

“He relieves any tension. He’s just a fun guy to be around,” St. Hilaire said. “He is a character. But the kids love him, they’ve loved him since he was a freshman. I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t like Jake Umberhind.”

Being his own man brought him to an unusual winter sport option. Formerly a wrestler, Umberhind, who was looking for a way to keep his conditioning up, decided to give cheering with Monmouth Academy a try.

He was as surprised as anyone to find out he loved it.

“It’s funny, when I say ‘I do football and I do cheer,’ they don’t expect that since I’m a big boy,” he said. “It’s kind of like football. I just love the rally of everyone coming together and working as a team, helping each other grow stronger to be the best that you can. That’s why I love sports.”

And like football, cheering can be bruising.

“A lot of people go ‘Oh, cheering’s not a sport! It’s not that hard!’ Even as a football player, it’s actually pretty rough,” he said. “Sometimes I get kicked in the crown jewels a few times, and that really hurts. I get kicked in the face, people fall on my face. You get bruised up.”

Umberhind is Monmouth’s strong man as the base on stunts, but the sport has also taught him a different type of athleticism. He can do a split and toe-touch, is working on a back handspring, and has gained a flexibility that has served him well on the football field.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football players Barrett Perkins, left, and Jacob Umberhind work on a blocking drill during practice Tuesday in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“He’s got incredible footwork,” St. Hilaire said. “He goes through an agility ladder like a running back. He’s got things that big guys just don’t have. He’s got some tools.”

Size, as Umberhind has seen, isn’t everything.

“I see guys that have really big potential, like 6-6, 300-pound guys, but they just move like Frankenstein,” he said. “It’s really key to be a good lineman, you’ve got to be flexible.”

Umberhind isn’t always so carefree. When the games begin, he said, he locks in.

“I just stare at the ground for, honestly, five minutes and talk to myself,” he said. “People try to talk to me and I push them aside. I don’t know why. I just take game time seriously.”

That’s when the character and comedian take a break. Until the final whistle, he’s just the lineman. And a good one.

“I think it helps me. Every game, I get butterflies in my stomach, and I’m just excited to play every game,” he said. “Especially this year, to be able to play is just amazing. I’m so excited that this year, we can play.”

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