Stephenson commits to ONU

PLYMOUTH — It all started with a lie.
Plymouth senior Danny Stephenson recalls how, at the age of six, he couldn’t wait to start playing football. So he and a group of friends slyly informed Marshall County Junior Football League organizers they were eight in order to be eligible to play in the league two years early. Fast forward 12 years, and Stephenson is getting the opportunity to continue playing the sport he’s always loved.
After mulling over several offers, Stephenson has committed to play at NCAA Division III Ohio Northern beginning in the 2012-13 season.
“I’ve been playing football since I was six. To be honest, you’re supposed to start when you’re eight in the MCJFL, but me and a couple other kids said we were eight, and they weren’t as strict about the birth certificates back then,” recollected Stephenson.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to make it this far, and I knew it was a great ticket to get into college and a great way to push me through with the academics of college. It’s been a dream of mine as long as I can remember, since I was first learning how to walk and my dad gave me a football. I first started out dreaming of being on The Rockpile, and now I’m going to be playing college ball next year.”
Stephenson, a 6-1, 210-pound two-way lineman and long snapper, is a three-year varsity player with the Rockies. The 2011-12 team captain is a two-year starter and one of just two PHS seniors to have played on the varsity squad while a sophomore. He was an All-Northern Lakes Conference selection in his final season, a WTCA Player of the Game pick, and a two-year Indiana Football Digest Impact Player.
“Danny is a kid that was one of our captains and certainly was one of our leaders this year,” said PHS head football coach John Barron. “He can run, he’s a pretty athletic kid, he’s a hard-nosed kid and a great worker. Wherever he was going to go, they were going to get an all-in kid that’s going to give them everything that he’s got. It’s good for him that he’s going to be able to continue to play the game that he loves playing and that he plays with so much passion.”
Although he was a lineman with the Rockies, Stephenson was recruited at inside linebacker. He brings a solid resume as a long snapper to ONU as well and he may get to start seeing field time with the Polar Bears at that position as early as next year.
“That’s one of my opportunities,” said Stephenson. “It doesn’t mean that starting inside B is out of reach; I’m capable of that, it depends on and how hard I’m working and what I can get done over the summer. I could be starting at both or I could be starting at neither. It depends on how hard I go.”
Stephenson is one of 16 players in ONU’s 2012-13 recruiting class. The Polar Bears are a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference and finished last season at 6-4 overall and 5-4 in OAC play. The team was ranked as high as No. 9 in the 2011 polls following a No. 8 finish in the division in 2010.
Stephenson considered several offers before committing to Ohio Northern but wanted to find the right fit. He nearly signed with Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. before the college dismissed 17-year head coach Jeff Pierce in the offseason.
Stephenson said he chose ONU because the university offers his intended major, because of the school’s facilities and the strength of its roster, and because he’ll have opportunities to start playing sooner than he might at a bigger program.
“There were a lot of Division III schools where I can realistically look at them and say oh yeah, I’m going to get on the field right away. That was evident. But what really caught my eye was with the bigger schools I knew it was going to be a lot of work to get on that field and I knew it was going to be awhile realistically before I did,” he said. “But this school, they have the Division I- and Division II-quality players, but I think I can really get on the field my freshman and sophomore years. That was one of my incentives is I know I can get over there and I can start playing. That’s what I love to do.”
A good student with a 3.5 GPA, Stephenson plans on studying Construction Management at ONU. The son of Daniel and Colleen Stephenson in Argos, he’s earnest about representing Rockies football at the next level and even offered some encouragement to young players dreaming of playing college ball someday.
“I’d like to thank the community and my coaches and family and friends for all their support all the way through, and I’ll do my best to represent them in the future,” he said.
“I would also like to say to the young players of our community: keep dreaming big, and through hard work your dreams will become reality.”