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Durant: Standout Stephens will be all over field

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 08:27 PM

Nearly a decade ago, Durant High football coach Mike Gottman watched as former standout Fred Andrews developed into a college prospect. Andrews went on to star at the University of Delaware, where he helped the Blue Hens reach the Division I-AA championship game as a redshirt junior in 2007.

Andrews was a versatile athlete at Durant, starting at defensive back and quarterback for three straight years. He played defensive back at Delaware.

Gottman sees the same qualities in senior and two-year team captain Mike Stephens, who will lineup at four positions (defensive back, running back, receiver and kick returner) this season.

"He's not afraid to try anything and he's not going to shy away from anything," Gottman said. "It's good to have a kid who has that mentality."

A three-year starter, Stephens finished the 2010 season with 36 tackles. In the spring, he had a 72-yard rushing touchdown against Strawberry Crest. He will play mainly in the secondary, a position he earned as a starter his sophomore season.

"(The coaches) felt like I was better than the other DB's they had," Stephens said of his sophomore season. "I had to adjust to bigger and faster receivers. My junior year, I felt no one could threaten my zone. I was in place."

Last season, Stephens said he had his best performance as a cornerback against Plant City when he defended the Raiders' star receiver, Javonte Sykes.

"I felt like I kept him in check," he said. "I locked him down a little bit."

"We make him go against the top receivers," Gottman said. "We can put him at cornerback and strong safety to blitz off the end."

Gottman said Stephens was elected captain by his peers, something he regards as one of the highest honors a player can receive.

"(A leader is) a person that does everything the right way," Stephens said. "Showing leadership at all times."

"He's a kid who does the little things the right way," Gottman said. "We don't have to get on him. He pushes himself."

Stephens said he possesses a dynamic quality when on the field once he transforms into 'Pretty Boy Stephens.'

"I like to have swagger," he said. "On the sideline, I act up."

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