Tommy Stevens grows into big-time recruit


Tommy Stevens grows into big-time recruit

When he was a freshman at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, Tommy Stevens didn’t exactly stand out in the crowd. “I think I was 5-foot-10 and 140 pounds,” he recalled.

Time has passed, and Stevens has changed. A lot. The junior now stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 200 pounds. “I knew that I’d eventually grow,” Stevens said. “I guess I didn’t necessarily think I’d be 6-4, but I’ve got a big family and I knew that I was going to grow eventually. That growth spurt definitely helped me out, and now I’m starting to fill out a little bit. When I started growing, I was growing height wise but I wasn’t growing wide. I was a twig, but I’m trying to put on weight now.”

Stevens has grown physically, and his skill level at quarterback has also increased. In his first full year as the varsity starter this past season, Stevens passed for 1,526 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 785 yards and 7 more scores.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Stevens said. “I expected to do great things because of the guys that were around us. I know we had a lot of talent coming back. We only lost, I want to say, one offensive starter from the year prior so I knew we were going to have a great year. It definitely helped me out having all the great playmakers around me. It started with the offensive line, I had all those guys back and they trusted me with everything. They did an absolute great job.”

There’s little doubt the Hawks were loaded with talent this past season – particularly on the offensive side of the football. Running back Eli Conlin rushed for 1,548 yards and 19 TDs and wide receiver Ryker Stout caught 39 passes for 564 yards and 7 TDs. Decatur Central senior offensive lineman Lukayas McNeil is going to play college football at Louisville and junior to be Trent Maynard already has an offer from Cincinnati.

But there is little question Stevens was the Hawks’ focal point this past season. “Our offense, we averaged 46.8 points per game against some really good competition here in Indianapolis,” said Decatur Central Head Coach Justin Dixson. “A lot of that is due to Tommy. We had two Division I offensive linemen and three really good running backs as well. Our offense was really potent and a lot of that was due to Tommy and his ability to be multi-dimensional and do a lot of different things.”

Running the show

Not only did Stevens take advantage of his big arm, he also used his standout speed in the Hawks’ spread option offense. “We ran a lot of things under center and a lot of things out of gun,” Dixson said. “That gave Tommy the ability to run, hand-off or throw based on what the defense was giving us. There’s a lot of decision making in his hands and a lot of responsibility to keep us in the right play.”

Stevens typically made the right decisions and when his junior football season ended, the college recruiters came calling in droves. Stevens already has multiple offers from schools like Iowa, Indiana, Cincinnati, North Carolina State and Purdue. Based on his ability to pass and run the football with impressive success, more college programs are likely to join in.

“It’s been crazy,” Stevens said. “I don’t think I’d be able to tell you that, when I was a freshman, I didn’t necessarily think that I’d be on the path that I am today. But a lot of hard work really helped me out a lot. My coaches helped me out a lot and the players around me, they’ve helped me.”

As he continues to weigh multiple college options, Stevens is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground. “It’s a little difficult,” he said. “But the way I was raised, it’s about staying on the same track, don’t let anything distract you and continue to do what got you there. I’m still trying to be the same person I was before all these offers and everything started coming in.”

For as good as he was a junior at Decatur Central, Stevens sees room for improvement. “Definitely, there’s always room to improve,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been trying to keep working hard, because more people are going to going to be not wanting to let me have the year I did last year. I have to work extra hard.”

Dixson has no doubt that Stevens is going to continue to flourish at quarterback when he reaches the next level, regardless of where he winds up. “I think they sky is the limit for Tommy,” Dixson said. “I know he wouldn’t say that, but the work ethic and the drive, and the talent he has, and also the love of the game, the sky is the limit. I tell people this all the time, in my 15 years as a coach I never thought I would coach a kid that loves football more than I do, and he might.”

Football family

His father has coached Stevens since he was in second grade, and growing up in a football family helped make him a well-rounded player before he finally settled in at QB. “My dad always taught me to play as many positions as I can and that helped,” Stevens said. “I basically played pretty much everywhere except for offensive and defensive line because I couldn’t quite block people at 130 pounds.”

There is no question Stevens landed at the right position, and he gave NFA major credit for helping him develop into one of the top prep quarterbacks in the country. “They helped me a lot,” Stevens said. “In my perspective, I think the NFA coaches are some of the best of the best. It helps to work with NFA. (Lead Coach) Will (Hewlett) is the man, and he’s got a great coaching staff behind him.”

Moving forward, Stevens can’t wait for his senior season at Decatur Central before moving up to the collegiate level. “It’s been a dream since I was a little kid,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play college football. Growing up watching college football, the NFL, seeing that, and now I’m going to play college football. It’s awesome.”

When he does move on from high school, Dixson sees more great things for Stevens. “He’s obviously very special and that’s why so many schools want him,” Dixson said. “But more than just a quarterback, he’s a football player with how competitive he is and how tough he is, those sorts of things. That’s what makes him really special. We knew coming in, watching him play as a seventh and eighth grader, he was going to be a good player. He comes from a football family and his dad’s one of the coaches on my staff. And when he hit that growth spurt, that just added to the tools he already had.”

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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University