Friday, December 6, 2013
The number 9 is the magic number on the University of Maine football team. It's passed down from defensive star to defensive star like a family heirloom. By now, Maine's opponents in the Colonial Athletic Association should know that the guy charging at you with the 9 on his jersey is the baddest Black Bear of them all.
This season, No. 9 on the Maine roster is senior defensive end Michael Cole, who had seven sacks in five games last season before a leg injury ended his season. Cole knows he wears No. 9 in part because of the example set by Jordan Stevens, his defensive line coach, former teammate, and former holder of the title of baddest Black Bear.
"He wore number 9. I always wanted to be that guy. He put out a great model of what it is and what it should be, and I've just tried to be something like that," Cole, a freshman when Stevens was a senior, said.
A graduate of Mt. Blue High School and a Temple native, Stevens graduated from Maine in 2010 after a standout career. Stevens joined Maine's coaching staff in 2011, as an assistant defensive line coach. After serving a two-year apprenticeship under former defensive line coach Dennis Dottin-Carter (himself a Maine standout), Stevens earned a promotion last winter when Dottin-Carter moved on to CAA rival Delaware.
"I'm really fortunate for the opportunity," Stevens said.
Jack Cosgrove, Maine's longtime head coach, said when it was time to replace Dottin-Carter, he and defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro knew Stevens was the right fit.
"The thing that's refreshing for me as a head football coach is to have somebody that's played for you, that came through your system as a player, who truly loves the program and is from the state of Maine," Cosgrove said. "That's kind of a highlight situation for me, and it was an easy decision."
If you were to name the Black Bears all-decade team of the 2000s, Stevens would be a no-debate first teamer. A linebacker and defensive lineman, Stevens was a captain his senior season, a season in which he led the Black Bears with 11.5 tackles for a loss. Stevens had 10 sacks his senior year, good for third-best in the CAA. Upon completing his all-CAA career, Stevens attended a rookie camp with the Detroit Lions, and signed with the Hartford Colonials of the UFL in 2010.
"He's legendary here, in terms of his work ethic, in our football program. Every young man in this program was impacted by him when he was a player," Cosgrove said.
Stevens has slimmed down from his playing weight of 251 pounds, and is built more like the guy who was a state champion Alpine skier at Mt. Blue then the guy who was chasing down quarterbacks a few years ago. He still knows how play football, and he knows how to teach his defensive linemen how to play.
"He's been there. He's done that. He's lived our lives. He knows what to do," Cole said. "I was praying they were going to hire him, and I'm very lucky to have him as my coach."
"He's a hard-working young man, make no mistake about it. It's good to have that kind of quality young man, not only coaching football, but you know, he's going to be a great academic advisor for them. A great role model," Cosgrove said.
Stevens is excited about the players he's coaching this season, players like junior Matt Wilson and senior Erwin Roach. Players like sophomore Trevor Bates of Westbrook, and redshirt freshmen Darius Greene and Pat Ricard, young players of whom much is expected.
"That's what I enjoy the most, working the group of guys we've got on the D-line," Stevens said. "Coach Ferraro and Coach Cosgrove promoted me, so I'm really thankful and excited about this season."
And of course, there's Cole, arguably one of the top players in the conference. Cole remembers Stevens the captain as a guy who would only speak when he felt it absolutely necessary. Stevens the coach is the opposite, always talking, always teaching.
"Coach Stevens, I think he's a great coach. This is his first year, but it's been a very smooth transition. He's a hard worker. He's knows what he's doing," Cole said. "He knows what he's talking about, and he's definitely leading us down the right path."
Cole knows the highest compliment he can give Stevens has yet to be paid. That will come on the field, when he, from one 9 to another, plays like the baddest Black Bear of them all.
Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242