UMaine’s top linebacker enters NCAA transfer portal | #sports | #elderly | #seniors
University of Maine linebacker Deshawn Stevens has entered the NCAA transfer portal as a grad student, hoping to catch on with a Football Bowl Subdivision program.
Stevens has been one of Maine’s best defensive players throughout his career. He led the team in tackles in 2018, when the Black Bears advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, and again in the abbreviated 2020 spring season.
Stevens, who will receive a degree in history at Maine’s graduation ceremonies this spring, missed virtually all of the 2019 season when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg in the second quarter of the season opener.
“My decision is just about the timing,” said the 23-year-old Stevens, who is from Toronto. “I spent five years with the program, and I wouldn’t change or trade that for anything. It’s been one hell of a journey and something to be proud of.
“But as far as football goes, it’s time to gamble on myself, to bet on myself. I’m always confident in myself and my play on the field speaks for itself. It’s time to take that next step. Hopefully I can find a school where I can fit in and have an immediate impact.”
Maine Coach Nick Charlton said he was not surprised by the decision. He said that he and his staff have had many conversations with Stevens, and all of the Black Bears players, about their futures.
“Deshawn been here a long time and he’s been through a lot,” said Charlton. “The (Canadian Football League) draft is on the horizon (next Tuesday) and he’s putting his name in the portal to see what options he might have. And he’ll have options. He’s a two-time captain and he deserves the opportunity to make this decision and I support him.
“Deshawn has meant a lot to this program and to myself, personally. I’m proud of everything he accomplished here.”
Stevens arrived in Orono after spending two years at the Kent School, a private school in Connecticut. He was discovered by former Maine head coach Joe Harasymiak at a football camp at Rutgers University and was immediately offered a scholarship.
Stevens spent the 2016 season as a redshirt, working on the scout team, then earned starting time in 2017 and finished with 50 tackles. He blossomed in the 2018 season with 120 tackles, including 17 for a loss and nine sacks. He was a preseason second-team all-America selection in 2019 before his injury ended his season.
He came back and led Maine in its four-game 2020 spring season with 36 tackles and earned first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association honors.
Stevens said his years in Orono were pivotal in his life and his football career.
“Honestly, I’ll remember the grind you put in here,” he said. “I’ve always been a hard worker, pushed myself to be great and be the best player I can. Coming to Maine enabled me to dig deeper into that mindset. … This was an experience that will always be a part of me.”
Charlton said the Black Bears are already working to replace Stevens, with offers to transfer students (Colgate linebacker Brendan Ekwughalu announced on Twitter he had received an offer from the Black Bears). He said Maine has several top linebackers already on the roster, including Adrian Otero, a junior who has started since his freshman season, and Xavier Nurse, a redshirt freshman who earned playing time this spring because of injuries.
“We’ve been prepared,” said Charlton. “We feel strongly about guys on our roster and have been pursuing other guys at the position.”
It is possible, Charlton said, that other players will use the transfer portal as well. “There’s always going to be movement nowadays with the nature of (the portal),” he said.
The Black Bears lost two of their top players to the transfer portal before the 2020 spring season, as offensive lineman Liam Dobson transferred to Texas State and kicker Kenny Doak to Southeast Missouri State.
Stevens said he’s unsure what he will study as a grad student. He may take up communications, continue on with a master’s degree in history or further his studies in child development, which was his minor at Maine.
“I’m just grateful for all the relationships I had at Maine,” he said.