When it came time for Nathan Stephens of Anchorage, Alaska, to decide where he would play college football this fall, he took the path of least resistance. In other words, he followed his heart. Stephens, of Dimond High fame, made his intentions official on national signing day by signing with Missouri University of Science and Technology, a NCAA D2 school known for engineering and having a resurgent football program.
“I want to be a petroleum engineer and there are only 14 schools in the nation that have that major,” he told me. “And they went 10-1 and were ranked nationally, so I really couldn’t go wrong. It was like, ‘Where do I sign?’ ”
In 2012, Stephens played in 10 games as a freshman at the New Mexico Military Institute, the same JC that produced current NFL cornerback Zak Bowman of Anchorage.
Stephens, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker, registered 28 tackles, including four for loss, and one sack, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.
“I was pretty happy with how I played with the reps I got,” he said. “I didn’t get as many reps as I wanted.”
Despite limited playing time he still made big plays on the field. He hopes to make an immediate impact at Missouri S&T, which finished No. 24 in 2012.
“I haven’t really played on a top-notch team since middle school,” he said. “It’s exciting to be on a team that potentially can play for a national championship while I’m there.”
Stephens visited the Missouri S&T campus and connected with coaches. “They seemed really cool,” he said. “They seemed like they get after kids at practice.”
Sounds like everyday life at the New Mexico Military Institute. “You go to practice and get told what to do and then outside of practice you’re told what to do by a bunch of other people,” he said, laughing. “Just get bossed around all day.”
Stephens ultimately picked Missouri S&T over two other colleges recruiting him. “This one blew all schools away,” he said.
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.