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Deshawn Stevens, like the rest of his University of Maine football teammates, has been working out at his home in preparation for the 2020 season.
With the institution closed down by the COVID-19 pandemic and players unable to congregate in large groups and use the workout equipment, UMaine director of sports performance Jon Lynch has used social media to supply the players with comprehensive workout programs they can execute by themselves in their own homes or with a few friends.
“Everybody is doing what they can to stay active,” said Stevens, who is home in Toronto. “We all want to stay focused so we can come back in tip-top shape and be ready to go.”
Stevens can’t wait to return to Orono after suffering a season-ending ruptured right Achilles tendon on Aug. 30 in the season-opening 42-14 victory over Sacred Heart. He had surgery the following week.
“It’s doing great. It’s feeling much better. It’s strong,” Stevens said.
He is doing specific exercises drawn up by head athletic trainer Ryan Taylor and the medical team for his Achilles tendon and Lynch’s regimen for general fitness.
Stevens has been able to run and use a treadmill and he has been doing a lot of pull-ups and push-ups and some weight training.
“I want to strengthen my core and be lighter on my feet,” he said, noting that he has more free time now to work out.
Stevens, who was a STATS preseason third-team All-American last season, said dealing with the coronavirus restrictions and the uncertainty about the future has been hard for all UMaine athletes.
“We’re all hoping for the best,” Stevens said. “Football is what I live for, it’s what got me here. I hope they can find a way to make [the season] happen.
Having to sit out the 2019 season has given Stevens a new perspective on his final season at UMaine.
“I’m excited about getting back on the field with my family, my brothers,” he said. “I don’t want to say I was robbed last fall but it was a different feeling sitting out for the first time in my life.”
When the 2018 Black Bears won the Colonial Athletic Association championship and reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in program history, Stevens led the 10-4 Black Bears with 120 tackles in 14 games and was named to the All-CAA second team while earning HERO FCS sophomore All-America honors.
He ranked second in the CAA in average tackles-for-a-loss (1.21) and was third in total tackles (120) and tackles per game (8.6). He was tied for fifth with nine sacks.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Stevens was sorely missed last season by the Black Bears, who went 6-6 including a 4-4 conference record. The Black Bears defense allowed an average of six more points, 77.3 more rushing yards and 53.4 total yards than 2018.
Opponents rushed for nearly two more yards (1.9) per carry.
He wants to continue playing after his college career is over, so he will keep trying to improve, he said. Even if there isn’t a college season next fall, he will be ready to try to earn a spot on a professional team’s roster.
Stevens, who was the team’s fifth-leading tackler in 2017 with 50 after redshirting his freshman year, found himself helping mentor some of the young linebackers while sitting out last fall and he said he learned a lot from observing games from the sidelines.
“It was a blessing in disguise. That will make me better,” said Stevens.
He likes the potential of the 2020 UMaine football team even though it suffered some substantial graduation losses including six defensive starters. He said a lot of young players earned valuable playing time and are ready to step up into more prominent roles this coming season.
“And we will have some fresh blood in the program on both sides of the ball,” he said.
If there is a football season, the games may have to be played without spectators due to social distancing guidelines and Stevens is fine with that.
“The big thing is we just all love playing football,” he said.
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