When teams prepared to take on the University of Maine’s defense, the focal point of those discussions was Jovan Belcher.
The Black Bears’ senior defensive end and co-captain usually required extra attention, to the point of double- or even triple-teaming him in some situations.
Despite all the schemes opponents devised, Belcher had a stellar season for UMaine on his way to being named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year.
His performance in helping guide coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears back to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs after a five-year absence have earned him recognition as a first-team All-American by The Associated Press.
Belcher, a 6-foot-2, 238-pound dynamo, earned his second straight AP All-America honor after gaining second-team recognition in 2007. He is the 32nd player in UMaine history to achieve that status.
“Special players have that ability to really jump into another gear and maybe turn themselves into a little bit of a different being,” Cosgrove said. “Belch is so excited to use his gifts that he’s been given. He plays with such passion and reckless abandon.”
Belcher finished the 2008 season as UMaine’s leading tackler with 98. That ranked 11th overall in the CAA and first among defensive linemen.
His tackles included 17.5 for a loss of yardage, which led the league, along with 7.5 quarterback sacks, which ranked tied for third.
Belcher is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is presented to the top FCS defensive player in the country.
“I thought he played great against us. He was very hard for us to handle,” said James Madison coach Mickey Matthews.
Despite giving up between 35 and 70 pounds to opposing offensive tackles, Belcher utilized his quickness, strength and technique to find his way to ballcarriers and quarterbacks. However, it may have been his determination that set him apart.
It was common to see Belcher leap high to get over a blocker who attempted to bend down low and cut his legs from underneath him.
“He’s such a pursuit guy. He’s relentless,” Cosgrove said. “He just keeps playing.”
Belcher hopes to keep playing at the professional level and will continue working out hard after earning his degree (in 3½ years) this week in child development and family relations.
Belcher’s predecessor at defensive end, Matt King, was the Bears’ last first-team All-American in 2006. Belcher joins former UMaine stars Stephen Cooper, Aaron Dashiell and John Huard as two-time honorees.