Utah Utes football: Tevita Stevens proves to be leader of the pack

By Connor Malmberg

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 4 2012 12:01 p.m. MDT

When the Ute offense takes the field this fall, fans’ attention will be drawn to the players who reel off the big runs, account for the long pass plays and put points on the scoreboard. But football scholars know it all starts with the play of the offensive line, and the heart of that group this season is senior center Tevita Stevens.

Stevens, a Hemet, Calif., native, is the middle child in a family of five boys. Playing sports, especially football, were highly encouraged by his parents, Ron and Telekaki Stevens, while he was growing up.

“My family has always been supportive of me playing sports,” Stevens said. “My parents fly up to see me play every week, and now that my younger brother plays at Oregon they try to see both of us play. It has really helped me and my brothers to have such supportive parents and family members.”

Unlike most children who learn to play sports in organized leagues, Stevens and his siblings learned from each other. The older brothers were the leaders, setting an example for the younger ones to follow.

“In California, they have weight classes for the recreation leagues and we were always too big. So, I only played backyard and flag football with my brothers until I reached high school,” Stevens said.

But playing football wasn't all Stevens did with his brothers.

“Growing up in a house with all boys, we would get really rough,” he said. “We would always be outside wrestling or playing football. I would go watch my older brothers’ football practices and even became the team water boy.”

When Stevens was in elementary school, the examples of his older brother and his father, a school teacher, paved the way for his future.

“When I was in fourth grade, I remember watching my brother Chris play high school football and make big plays as running back,” Stevens said. “He worked very hard on and off the field. Then I saw him get scholarship offers from various colleges and eventually play at BYU. That’s when I decided I wanted to get a football scholarship, just like him.”

An assignment from his fourth grade teacher, Linda Campbell, also helped clarify Stevens’ future plans.

“As a kid in elementary school, my main focus was having fun with my friends. I did not expect an ordinary class assignment to have a large impact on my life,” Stevens said. “Ms. Campbell gave one assignment where we were to write out our personal goals for the next 10 years, and then she had us write down how we were to achieve those goals. I, of course, put down that I wanted to have a date for prom and such; but I also put down a plan to achieve my goals of playing college football and even becoming a school teacher. I used my brother’s example and planned to follow in his footsteps. It was amazing that I had a teacher who took the time to do that, and she even checked up on our goals and returned our papers to us years later at our high school graduation.”

Once Stevens reached high school, he was able to play organized full-contact football for the first time. He excelled in several sports, setting multiple records and earning awards in football, wrestling and track & field. However, his play on the gridiron gained the most notoriety and put him on the path to achieve his goal of playing college football.

Stevens received several Division I scholarship offers during his senior year and ultimately decided to sign with the University of Texas El-Paso.

Following his high school graduation, Stevens elected to put his academic pursuits on hold and serve a two-year LDS church mission to New York City. At the conclusion of his service, Stevens decided to decommit from UTEP and sign with the University of Utah.

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