Friday, April 18, 2014
Morning Sentinel Staff
"I'm proud of what I've done at Maine," said Stevens, a Temple native who was one of the Black Bears' three captains last season. "I'm not really fulfilled. I want to play in the NFL."
The list of NFL prospects from Temple, Maine, isn't a list. It's Stevens' signature. Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said in the past week, the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins have called the Black Bears' football office looking for information on Stevens. On March 17, Stevens joined a handful of his teammates and worked out for scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders.
Stevens also recently worked out at a scouting combine in Washington, D.C. Still, he's not expecting to hear his name announced on ESPN during the network's draft coverage.
"I'm not really sure what to expect," Stevens said. "If anything happens, it will probably be through free agency."
Signing as a free agent after the draft isn't a bad thing. Last spring, Maine's Jovan Belcher signed a free agent deal with Kansas City and finished the regular season as the Chiefs' sixth-leading tackler. Mike DeVito signed with the New York Jets in 2007 and made 28 tackles last season as a backup defensive end. Montel Owens is a special teams standout for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And of course there's Stephen Cooper, who went undrafted in 2003 and is now a starting linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. Maine has a solid reputation in the NFL, and that will help Stevens' chances of earning a contract. If any Black Bears are drafted or sign a free agent contract, this will be the sixth straight year a Maine rookie gets a crack at the NFL.
"I talked to Coach Cos quite a bit," Stevens said. "I always thought it could be a reality, and he assured me it could."
After graduating from Mt. Blue High School, Stevens spent a year at Bridgton Academy, where he earned himself a scholarship to Maine. Stevens played his way on to special teams as a freshman, then on to the starting defensive unit for three years, first as a linebacker, then as a defensive end.
Playing in the Colonial Athletic Association, the toughest conference in the Football Championship Subdivision (you can still call it I-AA), Stevens excelled. He finished the 2009 season with 58 tackles, 111/2 of them for a loss. His 10 sacks in 11 games were third-best in the conference. The sack leader, Adrian Tracy of William & Mary, needed 14 games to get 12 sacks.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Stevens projects as a linebacker in the NFL. He's ranked among outside linebacker prospects by NFLDraftScout.com, but Stevens said he's heard that some teams see him as an inside linebacker because of his size.
The most likely Black Bear to be drafted is offensive tackle Tyler Eastman. Rated the 25th-best offensive tackle in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com, Eastman is 6-5, 310 pounds and could go in the late rounds. Eastman is an Old Town native, and it's nice to see the Black Bears' top two professional football prospects are native Mainers.
Stevens talked to Owens and Matt Mulligan, a former teammate who signed a free agent deal with Miami in 2008. His agent sends out tapes and talks to scouts. His coaches talk him up to every team that inquires.
He's run and jumped and bench pressed and gone through agility drills. Stevens is set to graduate next month with a degree in business management. He'll put that degree to work later. Stevens approaches next weekend with a hopeful wait-and-see attitude.
Stevens just wants a chance. That's all he asked of Bridgton Academy, and that's all he asked of Maine. He arrived in Orono ready to work and left as a captain. That turned out pretty good. "I wanted to play at Maine. I had to take a longer road to get here, as it happened," Stevens said. "I hope I get a shot at the NFL."
Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242