A high school football player has a busy schedule and a hectic life, first with classes during the day and then practices after school. There are also the game preparations and finally, the games on the weekend. It’s a never ending cycle.
With that in mind, it’s not uncommon to see where Ty Stevens is practically on a daily basis, after his duties as the inspirational team leader for the Lincoln High School Lions are through.
Stevens spends a lot of his free time working with the young players in the Jersey City Recreation football program, a program that helped him develop into one of the most electrifying running backs in New Jersey.
Stevens might be a little tired after practice, but he drags himself down to Caven Point Cochrane Stadium on a regular basis to spend time with the youngsters. After all, it wasn’t long ago that Stevens was one of those budding stars himself.
“I want to be able to give back and support these kids,” Stevens said. “When I’m there, the kids all know who I am now. I just want them to stay positive, stay involved in the game and stay out of trouble. I want to make sure that I can help them.”
“He’s spent the last three years with those kids in the Rec program, helping those kids learn how to run,” Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton said. “Ty has been such a tremendous role model. It’s the thing perhaps I’m most proud of.”
It’s safe to say that the head coach is pretty pleased with what Stevens has done on the field as well. The senior is on pace to become the all-time leading rusher in the school’s history and has been a mainstay in the Lincoln backfield since his sophomore campaign.
Now, as a senior, Stevens is poised to make sure that everyone knows exactly who he is.
Last year, Stevens had an All-Area season, but he missed parts of three games due to a severely injured toe.
“I felt unaccomplished,” Stevens said. “I felt like I left something on the field. After I hurt my toe, I couldn’t do anything and that was very frustrating. I tried to play, but I wasn’t the same. So that was my motivation coming into this season. I got in the weight room and worked on strengthening my muscles and ligaments. I knew my teammates were going to need me, so I had to stay healthy and be healthy.”
“He got a lot faster,” Hampton said. “As a sophomore and junior, he didn’t have that afterburner. But he worked on his speed. He’s bigger now. He’s also a smarter runner. He’s not a wiggler as a runner. He’s a slasher. I just think he’s smarter and stronger, a total runner.”
And Hampton never had to worry about Stevens’ attitude or approach.
“I’m never surprised at anything Ty Stevens does,” Hampton said. “He’s a warrior and he’s been that way since he entered Lincoln High School. Sometimes, it’s hard to coach a warrior, because he’s an intense kid and I’m an intense coach, but he may be more intense than me. He wants to take charge all the time. He’s a fiery, tough kid. We’re going to butt heads, because that’s the nature of the beast. But the end result is that we both want to win. He has no problem getting in his teammates’ faces if they don’t do the job.”
A year ago, that was what happened at halftime in a crucial game against St. Anthony. Stevens got right up into the face of his offensive linemen and told them they had to block better. Then Stevens demanded the football in the second half and ended up with 241 yards and three touchdowns in a big Lincoln victory.
“I’m not afraid to tell them how I feel, no sir,” Stevens said. “I just had to do it that day.”
However, last Friday against Hanover Park, Stevens didn’t have to make a dramatic stance. He didn’t have to yell or scream. He just took the football and ran with it, over and over.
Stevens had 18 carries for an even 250 yards and scored five touchdowns in a 52-22 rout of Hanover Park. It was the best single-game rushing performance by a Lincoln running back since Ricky Reeves went for 275 in a game in 1977.
For his efforts, Stevens has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week, the first honoree of the 2010-11 scholastic sports year. The weekly feature culminates in July, 2011, with the presentation of the newspaper chain’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year awards.
Stevens knows that he has a special place among the Lions.
“I know that my teammates look up to me and follow my lead,” Stevens said. “I’m a perfectionist and I always want the best. I was taught that you practice as you play and that you should never slack off. I want that to rub off on my teammates. I make sure everything is right and I think my teammates respect that.”
“There are some kids who are leaders who don’t understand the whole picture, the big goals,” Hampton said. “Ty understands the mission we’re on. He understands that we have a bigger goal and he’s pushing his teammates along with him. He plays a major role in the locker room and makes sure that everyone toes the line.”
Hampton said that Stevens’ performance against Hanover Park last week was particularly impressive, because he didn’t get the ball every single down.
“He got his yards within the game plan, within the system,” Hampton said. “He capitalized on his opportunities and the offensive line did a great job with their blocking.”
“I didn’t even know I had that many carries or that much yardage,” Stevens said. “It was coming easily. Last year, in that St. Anthony game, I had to get the ball every time. But this time, the offensive line played outstanding and everyone knew what we wanted to do. It was a good win.”
It was the second straight impressive victory for the Lions, who defeated Ferris, 46-0, in the season opener, a game where Stevens had 117 yards and two touchdowns.
This performance was a little more special and certainly a lot more impressive. It’s one that may impress college coaches more. Stevens is currently being looked at by a series of schools, including Rutgers, Connecticut, Syracuse, Youngstown State, Delaware and James Madison.
“He has the goods to play at the next level,” Hampton said. “I think everyone waited to see about his speed, but he’s starting to turn the corner. I have high hopes for him.”
“I talked to a lot of the college coaches and they always ask me about my breakaway speed,” Stevens said. “They told me that I had to get faster. I think I’m showing that. Hopefully, someone will give me a chance.”
If Stevens keeps putting up 250 yards and five touchdowns, then he can punch his ticket anywhere.
For now, his ticket during his off-time is with the youngsters of Jersey City, hoping to find the next Ty Stevens.
“We definitely have one now,” Stevens said. “He’s almost as fast as me. He tells me he’s going to be better than me. It’s a good feeling to be there, working with the kids.”
Being a positive impact and a solid role model. That may be even more important than scoring five touchdowns in a game. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.