The Wolfpacker

November 2015 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 112 of 155

NOVEMBER 2015 ■ 111 BY MATT CARTER T o call Dr. Michael Stevens, pastor at University City Church in Char- lotte, a success story would be an understatement. He started his min- istry in 1994 in a small house, and at his first service there were two members and four guests listening. Now, Stevens preaches to a church that has grown to more than 1,500 members. NC State sophomore corner Mike Stevens is one of his two sons. Stevens gets that some may perceive growing up the son of a pastor "as a bad thing." "I embrace it because I got guidance from a father as well as somebody who knows the spiritual side of everything," Stevens aid. "He also let me live. He let me experience every- thing on my own." Thus while Stevens has become a regular starter he is crafting his own success story, one highlighted by personal growth and maturity. "After I made some bad decisions fresh- man year, I had to get it together to do what I wanted to do in college," Stevens noted. "My dad gave me advice, but he let me figure it out on my own." Stevens' maturation has not gone unno- ticed. Teammates and coaches alike have noted it, including fellow starting corner and fifth-year senior Juston Burris. "When you come in, you're not as mature as you should be when you're a fifth-year se- nior," Burris noted. "I've seen Mike change. He wants to work and comes in every day with the attitude that he wants to get better — not that he was bad when he first came in, but it's been an improvement. "Older guys said they saw a change in me; I didn't come in as mature as I am now. So seeing that maturity come out in him and see- ing the way he's playing now is great." "He was pretty immature last year, but he has really come on that way as a per- son," head coach Dave Doeren added. "He is handling his business better, and he is very consistent and talented at practice every day." Stevens has never lacked the confidence that he could succeed at the college level, even if he flew somewhat under the radar during the recruiting process. That could have been perhaps because Ste- vens played for a small private school in the shadows of Florida starting quarterback Will Grier, a redshirt freshman who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,204 yards with 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions in six games, all wins, before being suspended for the remainder of the year for taking an illegal performance-enhancing supplement. Stevens and Grier knew each other because they went to the same middle school and played little league football together. Grier's dad, Chad Grier, coached the team at David- son Day and asked Stevens to join them. During the 2013 campaign there, the final season for Grier and Stevens, the two put up video-game-like numbers on offense. Grier threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 77 touch- downs in 13 games. Stevens caught 66 passes for 1,334 yards and 18 scores. "It wasn't really much defense," Stevens understated. Coach Grier would tell any college that listened that Stevens had superior quickness to be a college corner, claiming to clock him in less than 4.0 seconds in the shuttle. Kansas State and Kentucky did offer, and Stevens was for a time committed to K-State. That was until NCSU offered in December of his senior year. "I talked to my parents, and they said it was a good fit for me because it was close to them," Stevens remembered. "My dad always saw me at NC State, but I didn't really see the vision he saw. "That was a big reason, following his guidance." Stevens learned during his freshman year he could count on his dad's guidance perhaps more than he thought. One of the life lessons the pastor preached on his son stayed with Stevens. "The battle is not given to the fastest, but it's given to the one who endures longest," Stevens' father told him. "Last year, I used it a lot when I wasn't playing as much," Stevens added. Stevens did not officially record any stats in the regular-season finale last season, a sat- isfying 35-7 win at archrival North Carolina, but that was the contest Stevens felt that it began to click for him. A few weeks later in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, Stevens broke up a pair of passes in the triumph over Central Florida. "This offseason, I got myself prepared," Stevens said. "I knew I could play out there. I just prepared hard knowing I wanted to get a shot this year." The results were evident in fall camp to Wolfpack defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. "He's a guy that's really worked hard on his technique and is becoming a pro at that," Huxtable stated. "He was very productive in fall camp and made a lot of plays. He's a guy that plays with a lot of confidence. He's a competitor." Huxtable also added that you have to have confidence to be a corner, "and Mike's got a lot of it." Thus when junior corner Jack Tocho was injured in the opener against Troy, Stevens was undaunted when called upon to replace him in the starting lineup. Stevens did not relinquish it for the rest of the first half of the season. His father's pride was evident in numerous re-tweets on Twitter of his son's exploits on the field. "I feel like I have made him real proud," Stevens said. "My dad is my role model. Knowing that I am making him happy is a big thing for me. It keeps me going as well." The family pride could double if Stevens' younger brother Matt, a senior linebacker at Hough High in Cornelius, N.C., joins Mike in Raleigh. "It'd be real cool," Stevens said. "We talk about it all the time, like how we would act around the dorms and stuff. It'd be pretty weird. He's thinking about it, so I am excited for him." Stevens, though, while giving his brother honest input about the Wolfpack, said that he is going to let him "go through the process by himself." It is somewhat similar to how his father let him go off to college on his own to write his own story. So far, so good. "It was a goal growing up to play this level," Stevens said. "To realize I am living a dream right now is pretty cool." ■ GROWING UP Sophomore Mike Stevens Has Blossomed Into A Starting Cornerback Stevens' coaches and teammates credit his maturation for helping him become a starter. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN "After I made some bad decisions freshman year, I had to get it together to do what I wanted to do in college. My dad gave me advice, but he let me figure it out on my own." ■ Stevens

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