ORONO — Chris Treister admits there was a time when he contemplated leaving the University of Maine.
It has been an emotional ride for the quarterback from Cape Elizabeth, who dueled with classmate Warren Smith for the starting job the last three seasons — only to come up short.
“When people come here to play football, that’s what they want to do,” Treister said. “They want to be on the field on Saturdays and experience the joy of winning, the pain of losing. Any time you don’t experience that, you’ll think to yourself, ‘Am I in the right place? Am I doing the right thing?’”
Experiencing such disappointment might have caused other young men to give up or pursue their dream elsewhere.
Treister has instead demonstrated fortitude in accepting his role as the backup and maturity in realizing the value of being part of the team and sharing in the lessons learned.
“Things haven’t worked out for Chris, but he’s been there in terms of his focus, his involvement, his leadership, his commitment,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
Treister and many of his 15 fellow seniors likely will play their final game at Alfond Stadium on Saturday when No. 13 UMaine plays Massachusetts in a key Colonial Athletic Association game.
Treister will be the holder on PATs and field goals and relay plays from the booth to the sideline as the Black Bears continue to chase a Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot and the CAA title.
“As I’ve been here and as I’ve matured through this program, I think I’ve embraced my role more so than in the past when it was more of a bitter feeling, an angry feeling, that I wish I was on the field, that I should be on the field,” Treister explained.
Treister cherishes the bond developed among team members who through hard work and sacrifice have helped UMaine post a 7-2 record (5-1 CAA) this season.
“This is my last year, my last go-round,” he said. “I have to put the team before me. It’s what can I do to keep this (success) going and help the team?”
Treister has enjoyed some glowing moments during his career.
On Oct. 8, Treister was shown nationwide on ESPN-TV’s “Plays of the Day” making a diving conversion rush that gave the Black Bears a 25-24 overtime victory at James Madison.
“That was awesome. It should have been No. 1,” he said, jokingly.
Treister has appeared in 24 career games, making three starts. In his starting debut on Nov. 14, 2009, the 6-foot, 200-pounder put his name in the UMaine record books.
Treister completed 40 of 46 passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns in a victory over Rhode Island. The completions and the .870 completion percentage are school records.
The performance demonstrated his ability and his readiness.
“We’d like to think that the quarterback battle (in 2011) was won by the slimmest of margins,” Cosgrove said. “I’m sure it created a bad taste for him, but you wouldn’t know it in how he conducts himself, how he carries himself.”
Treister arrived in 2007 full of promise. Coming out of Portland High School, where he was a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy — given to the state’s top senior football player and sportsman — he was given a full scholarship by UMaine.
He began the process of learning the UMaine offense while getting stronger and faster, all in the hope of earning playing time. Treister got his first crack at the job as a redshirt sophomore in 2009, but Smith, who had transferred in from Iona, earned the in-season nod to replace Mike Brusko.
Treister, who already had two years invested in the program, was devastated but eventually adjusted his attitude.
“My resolve has always been to say to myself: What haven’t I done? What do I need to do more? What do I need to work on?” Treister said.
His resolve has not been lost on his teammates.
“Even though he’s not starting, he still gets the respect as though he was the starting quarterback,” said senior tailback Pushaun Brown. “He’s been in a tough position, but he’s stayed positive and he’s continued to work.”
Treister said he arrived at UMaine a bit cocky and not fully appreciative of what it means to earn a scholarship. As time passed, he realized football was the conduit to getting a quality education and making the most of his college experience.
Treister graduated in May with a degree in international affairs with a concentration in political science. He has since enrolled in UMaine’s Master of Business Administration program.
“I want these younger guys that are looking up to me to see how important I consider my education and for them to do so as well,” Treister said.
He credits his parents, Ron and Caryn Treister, with teaching him to work hard in pursuit of his goals. He also is grateful for the guidance he received from his high school football coach, Mike Bailey.
Treister views his football experience at UMaine as part of a broader educational process.
“I think the discipline that the program puts on its players is something that will stick with us the rest of our lives,” Treister said. “There are so many things taught between the lines and off the field that you can transition into your life.”