ORONO — For much of his young life, Trevor Coston lacked a father figure.
It was his devoted mother, Maya Coston, who raised and supported him and the family.
Through his life experiences, and those in sports, Coston has learned how important a role model can be.
During his four-plus seasons at the University of Maine, Coston has drawn on his experience and enthusiasm to provide leadership and guidance for his football teammates. The fifth-year safety from Greenlawn, N.Y., thrives on the team dynamic and is eager to share his skills and knowledge.
Coston’s final season is off to an impressive start. He is part of a defensive unit that has helped the 19th-ranked Black Bears post a 3-1 record heading into Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association game against No. 7 James Madison at Harrisonburg, Va.
Coston has been among the catalysts in UMaine’s early-season success.
“Obviously, he’s a great football player, but the thing that sets him apart is his passion,” said UMaine defensive coordinator Joe Rossi. “He’s passionate about football and he’s passionate about his teammates. He cares about them and whenever a guy has that, he has the respect of his teammates.”
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove pointed out Coston is the only player who has been elected a captain each week this season.
“That’s the power of Trevor Coston in terms of his leadership skills here,” Cosgrove said.
Coston has been a mainstay in the UMaine secondary for two-plus seasons. This fall, he is third on the team with 22 tackles, owns three interceptions and has broken up four passes.
He is usually lined up as the free safety and is responsible for directing the defensive backs and making impactful plays.
“I love to get the ball in my hands,” Coston said. “(The Baltimore Ravens’) Ed Reed is my favorite player. If you watch him, he gets a lot of ‘picks’ (interceptions).”
Coston started out playing basketball as a youth and had a coach who made a difference. The late Daniel Trant, a former draft pick of the Boston Celtics, was a bond trader.
Trant died in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
On the football field, Coston was mentored by his coach at John Glenn High School, Dave Shanahan.
“Those two were big influences on me, because I didn’t have a father figure growing up,” Coston said. “Those two really showed me the way.”
Coston also was inspired by a young man from his neighborhood, Onyi Momah, who started his football career at UMaine before transferring to Hofstra.
“He kind of guided me through,” Coston said.
UMaine took a chance on signing Coston, who admitted his subpar grades in high school had scared most colleges away.
Once at UMaine, Coston got on track academically. On the field, he redshirted as a freshman in 2007, but cracked the lineup the following year — only to have his season ended by a knee injury in the second game of the year.
He underwent reconstructive surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but wound up starting all 11 games in 2009.
He never got back to 100 percent, especially after a subsequent shoulder injury — one that required offseason surgery prior to the spring of 2010 — slowed him further.
“You never really feel comfortable,” Coston said of overcoming the injuries, especially the knee. “It took me maybe a year and a half, almost two years, to truly feel like I was back at full speed.”
Coston began to more fully demonstrate his abilities last season when he ranked third on the team with 74 tackles and was third in the CAA, averaging 7.4 yards per punt return.
This year, Coston is injury-free.
He has netted a CAA-best 13.7 yards per punt return with one 74-yarder for a touchdown against Bryant.
“He’s playing with a freedom that’s great to see,” Cosgrove said. “He’s got a clean mind, free of the injury. “He’s a great tackler, a great pass defender, a key part of our defense.”
Coston graduated in May with a degree in child development and family relations with a minor in kinesiology and physical education. Through his studies, he believes he has discovered his calling — once his football career is over.
“I’m going to plan on working with kids and be a high school coach,” Coston said.”I want to really work with kids with autism, kids with disabilities.”
Coston has seen first hand the role athletics and caring adults can play in a young person’s life. He wants to give something back.
“I feel like I can help kids in any way, with any problem,” he said. I just fell in love with it, I guess. You don’t know why, but it’s something you have a knack for and it worked out for me.”