PLYMOUTH — When Plymouth senior Sam Stevens was little, grandmother Mary Beth Hunter used to take him out to the tennis court for lessons.
“We’re wasting our time,” the young Stevens would say to the Hall of Fame Plymouth tennis coach. “I’m going to play football.”
Not only did Stevens turn out to be right, he turned out to be a pretty good football player, and on Monday he signed on to continue his football career at Division II Bemidji State in Minnesota.
“He is a Rockie, man. He’s a tough dude and just real reliable,” said Plymouth head football coach John Barron. “The kid’s never going to get in trouble. He did some great things for us.”
That may be an understatement.
Stevens leaves Plymouth with the Rockies’ single-game rushing record of 289 yards and four touchdowns. He is ranked second all-time in rushing yards per game and third in career carries, and he finishes his high school career fifth on the program’s all-time rushing list with over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“Like a lot of our kids over the years a real tough kid, but what separates Sam is people don’t realize he’s 190 pounds, and he runs away from people,” Barron said. “He has that tailback breakaway speed with the combination of being a tough inside runner as a fullback. It’s really a rare combination.”
Perhaps even more impressive is Stevens’ track record for holding onto the ball.
In 400 straight rushes, Stevens didn’t give up a single fumble. In fact, you’d have to go back to his junior year to find a fumble by the workmanlike rusher.
“He didn’t lose a fumble this season, and to carry as much as he did that’s amazing,” said Barron. “He had a fumble in Week 3 of his junior year that he lost and then he lost a fumble as a sophomore, and that’s it. He’s a very giving kid, but when we gave him the ball he knew that we didn’t want him to give it back. Just extremely reliable from that standpoint.”
Minnesota is a long way away, and Stevens was given offers to play on the defensive side from some schools closer to home. But with such an impressive rushing resume, it’s no surprise the 6-foot, 190-pound running back felt more comfortable on offense. Between the opportunity to keep playing at his natural position and the team atmosphere at Bemidji, Stevens decided to become a Beaver.
“I’ve always been a running back since I was seven years old, and I like it more I guess,” he said. “When I went to Bemidji it just really felt like home. Not hot and stuff, I don’t like that. Most people do but I don’t. I met every single player on the team. They’re all really cool, and all the coaches were were just like them too, so that’s basically what did it for me.”
Bemidji is a DII program competing in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Last year the Beavers went 7-4 in head coach Jeff Tesch’s 17th year at the helm of the program. They’ve signed 10 other offensive players to their 2013 roster, but if Stevens plays his cards right, he might see playing time right away.
“They have two running backs that are playing right now but one’s struggling with grades, and they said if I prove myself right away then I could play,” Stevens said. “I think it’d be pretty cool to play as a freshman.”