ORONO, Maine — Sean Wasson is tremendously proud of his football heritage.
He grew up in Norwood, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, where he played linebacker for Interboro High School — just as his father George and brother Dominic had done before him.
They instilled in him a special level of intensity and toughness, which Wasson parlayed into a Division I scholarship at the University of Maine.
“I like being physical,” Wasson said. “That’s what Pa. football has always been, downhill and physical.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound inside linebacker will show off his hard-hitting style Saturday when the Black Bears entertain Northeastern in a noon Colonial Athletic Association game at Alfond Stadium.
“You won’t find a guy in this program who’s more passionate about the game and Black Bear football than Sean Wasson,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He loves the game, plays the game as hard and practices it as hard as anybody that’s ever come through here.”
Wasson, a first-time starter, has taken advantage of his opportunity and has impacted UMaine’s defense. Despite missing the opener after violating team rules, he is the Bears’ third leading tackler with 49 stops.
He also has made two clutch interceptions, one in each of the last two games, to help UMaine earn key victories.
Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Wasson’s energy and enthusiasm rub off on his teammates.
“He’s our unequivocal emotional leader out there,” Smith said. “He cherishes every opportunity he gets on the field. I think Sean Wasson represents everything that’s great about college football.”
Both Cosgrove and Smith pointed out Wasson is dedicated to learning the game both in practice and through film study. That dedication has enabled him to make the transition to full-time starter.
Wasson was a special teams standout during his first two seasons, then missed the last seven games in 2007 with a broken bone in his hand.
“I knew it was broken. I think I broke it in spring ball,” admitted Wasson, who tried to play through the injury to his scaphoid bone. “It’s frustrating, as a player, just watching. It’s the hardest thing I ever went through.”
Wasson has encountered other challenges, including passing a kidney stone the morning of the Bears’ game at Monmouth. He played anyway and led the team with 10 tackles.
“I wasn’t missing anything. I love the game of football and I’m willing to do anything to play it,” he said. “I enjoy every moment, every pain.”
The success of the defense is based on the ability of each player to carry out his assignment and trust his teammates to take care of theirs. He feeds off the camaraderie.
“We play as one on defense and that gives people opportunities to make plays,” Wasson said. “You’ve got to trust everybody and not try to do too much.”
Ever since Wasson started playing football, he received encouragement and constructive criticism from his dad and brother. Both of them pushed him to strive for excellence on the field.
Wasson said his father always made him accountable for his play and wasn’t afraid to bluntly point out areas where he could have done better. It was George Wasson who convinced his son to attend UMaine.
“My dad really liked the coaching staff and the program and believed that I could succeed here,” said Wasson, who now plans to take his football career to a different level once his playing days are over.
He hopes to foster in young people the same passion for the game he learned from his family and coaches.
“I would like to teach in my area and coach high school football. That’s my dream. That’s what I love the most,” Wasson said. “When I’m a coach I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my players succeed at the highest level, because that’s what people did for me.”