Former Quince Orchard football star Terrence Stephens returned to his alma mater in Gaithersburg Thursday, and delivered a speech to a gathering of the current Cougars’ football team. Stephens’ message? Dispel any positive thinking about the word “potential.”
“In my eyes, potential is what you haven’t done, with those blessings, those abilities,” Stephens said later in a telephone interview. “Potential for me has never been a good word. It’s something that I’ve used as motivation.”
Stephens, who played defensive tackle at Stanford for four years and was a an honorable mention all-Pac-12 pick in 2012, is back in the Washington-area this week to spend time with his friends and family before he learns his fate with the NFL. Whether that fate comes through the league draft, which began with the first round Thursday night in New York City and continues through the weekend, is a question that still hangs in the balance.
“These are why these rooms are called the war rooms,” Stephens said. “Right now I look at it, I’m going to be given the opportunity to attempt to make a 52-man roster, any way I put it. Have that be (as) an undrafted free agent, have that be in the fourth round, the fifth round, the seventh round, it doesn’t matter. Either way, rookies have to make a 52-man roster.”
The 6-2, 307-pound lineman impressed at his NFL pro day last month, especially in the weight room – and he was an anchor on a Stanford defense that was among the best in the country this past fall. The Cardinal finished 20th nationally in total defense, and was first in both tackles for loss (120) and sacks (56), and fifth in run defense (97 yards allowed per game). Stephens started in seven games, posting 10 tackles and three for loss. He missed the Rose Bowl, however, after he was declared ineligible for a secondary NCAA rules violation related to his rental of off-campus housing.
He has long thought about coming back to Quince Orchard to speak to younger players, but always envisioned himself talking to the team during the season. Instead, his speech came during a week that will shape his football future. His former coach, Dave Mencarini, introduced him to the players. Stephens talked to the kids about harnessing their abilities, and making good on their talent. A former second team All-Met (in 2008, a year that also included 2013 NFL Draft hopefuls Jelani Jenkins and Alec Lemon), he calls making the NFL a “major feat,” but nonetheless is keeping the jump to the league in perspective.
“If I do get the opportunity, I’m very willing and able to go out there and completely make a name for myself all over again. It’s a small fish in a bigger pond again,” Stephens said. “But it’s work. It’s work. It’s work without college, it’s work without classes, it’s work without teachers. It’s your job. Your body is your job.”
During the past sixth months, a period in which he calls the first time a player has to be truly “selfish” in his football career, Stephens has been inundated with the statistics that define his draft stock – things like combine running times and his weight. He was finally relaxing Thursday night, watching the draft with his friends and family. It was an unpredictable night, and the mystery surrounding Stephens’ future will only intensify in the next 72 hours. But he knows the call will come.
“It’s been rough. It’s been tough. It’s not something you want to necessarily be involved in because it’s very stressful, but it’s also a blessing,” Stephens said of preparing for the draft. “I’m happier to have been so involved in the sport of football, and having been so successful on a team basis and an individual basis. Having stories for my kids, and things like that. And this is just another story to add on.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 48-1
The combined score of Yorktown’s eight straight wins in girls’ soccer, including Thursday night’s 8-0 victory over Wakefield. It was the third time in eight days that the Patriots (9-1) have won a game 8-0. Villanova-bound forward Meghan Flynn scored two goals Thursday, pushing her season total to 19, good for second-most in the area.
— Four locals, including South County’s Felicia Majors, earned gold watches with first-place finishes to help lead the D.C.-area to a banner first day at the 119th Penn Relays.
— After considering offers from Cal and Georgia Tech, Hylton quarterback Travon McMillan chose Virginia Tech Thursday in a ceremony in the school’s auditorium in Woodbridge.
— After two down seasons that resulted in just five combined wins, Hayfield’s boys’ soccer team has stayed unbeaten by winning a number of thrillers this season – including Thursday night’s 1-1 draw against a shorthanded Falls Church club.
Photos from last night
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
Baseball: Battlefield at Freedom-South Riding, 6 p.m.
With both teams looking to rebound after losses earlier this week, the Bobcats (13-2, 5-1) are also trying to keep their foothold atop the AAA Cedar Run District standings against the Eagles (11-2, 4-2), who can play their way into a tie atop the league with a win Friday. Battlefield won the first meeting 7-6 back on April 9.