Joshua Huffman of the University of Maine struts after making a play during a game in 2017. The senior safety is back on the field this spring after missing last season while academically ineligible. Credit: Peter Buehner

Joshua Huffman figures he will probably be the most excited player on Morse Field during Saturday’s 15th annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Blue-White Game

Kickoff is set for noon at Alfond Stadium.

After playing 31 games in his first three seasons at the University of Maine, Huffman sat out the 2018 Colonial Athletic Association championship season because he was academically ineligible.

“It was the longest year of my life,” said Huffman, a senior strong safety. “To not be a part of the best year in program history, touched me a lot. It really got to me when I couldn’t play … just seeing them have fun on the field.”

The Black Bears went 10-4 and reached the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals for the first time in program history.

Huffman not only couldn’t play, but he couldn’t practice with the team, either.

He accepted responsibility for his ineligibility.

“I got a little overwhelmed. I had a bad semester,” Huffman said.

He learned from his mistake, focused on his studies and landed on the CAA Commissioner’s Academic honor roll. The business administration major earned a 3.3 grade point average last semester and said he is in line for another 3.0 this semester.

“I took advantage of the time I had,” Huffman said. “That’s beautiful for me.”

He returned to the team this spring motivated and re-energized.

“Every practice this spring I gave 110 percent. I made sure I brought it so the young guys could feed off my energy,” Huffman said.

His return to the team comes at an opportune time as UMaine two starting safeties, Jeff DeVaughn and Darrius Hart, will graduate.

“It’s great to see him back. He has worked really hard to get back,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said.

“He is a leader on this team on defense, and he’s an exceptional special-teams player,” Charlton said. “He is very coachable. The more you put on his plate, the more he excels.”

All-CAA second-team linebacker Deshawn Stevens said Huffman’s return will give the team a significant boost. “His leadership skills enable him to make an impact in the locker room and the video room as well as on the field,” he said.

“He has a determination about him,” Stevens said. “His mentality is whatever the situation is. He is always going to put his best foot forward.”

In 2017, Huffman was involved in 20 tackles, including 14 solos, and made five pass breakups.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound native of Buffalo, New York, had an exceptional high school career at Canisius High School, the state’s No. 1-ranked Class AA team during his senior season.

“Any time you have an experienced player who does things right and wants to perfect his craft like he does, it makes everybody feel good going into the season,” Charlton said.

After watching his teammates enjoy unprecedented success last season, Huffman wants to contribute to another long playoff run.

“I just want to be out there with my guys. We want to repeat as CAA champions and get back to the playoffs,” Huffman said.