ORONO, Maine — Marcus Wasilewski is a young man who tries to take nothing for granted.
Whether it’s on the football field, in the locker room or in the classroom, the University of Maine senior doesn’t want to disappoint the man in the mirror — or his teammates and coaches.
This season, the senior quarterback has demonstrated the value of experience. Wasilewski (pronounced wash-uh-LES-kee) has provided them with a picture of performance, resilience and leadership in the Black Bears’ 5-1 start.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder from Kulpmont, Pa., looks to keep 14th-ranked UMaine on the winning track Saturday when it takes on William & Mary in the 12:30 p.m. homecoming game at Alfond Stadium.
“I think what got us here is the togetherness on this team and our practice and preparation habits,” Wasilewski said. “We want to have an even better finish than how we started this season.”
He has enjoyed considerable success since he was named the starting quarterback for coach Jack Cosgrove’s team in August 2012. This fall, Wasilewski has emerged as the most productive offensive player in the Colonial Athletic Association this season.
Wasilewski ranks first in total offense, netting 295.2 yards per game. That includes 1,534 yards and 12 touchdowns on 67 percent accuracy through the air (127-for-189), along with 4.6 yards per carry on the ground.
“He’s a far different quarterback than he was 12 months ago,” Cosgrove said. “It’s because of the experience he’s gained from playing in this league and performing. He has a much greater confidence and understanding of what we do in our offense.”
Wasilewski admits that with the support of his teammates and coaches he has worked through most of the growing pains that can plague a first-year quarterback.
That has included dealing with the physical and mental aspects of football.
“Off the field, it was how to prepare, how to watch film, learning what tendencies were important,” Wasilewski said. “On the field, it was [dealing with] that excitement level, calming the nerves, getting used to the pace of the college game.”
In 17 career starts, Wasilewski has climbed to eighth place on UMaine’s career passing list (3,909 yards). He also is a run threat, altho ugh a shoulder injury suffered at Northwestern has hampered those efforts.
The success, in terms of victories and statistics, has come playing be hind an offensive line that features three new starters. Wasilewski shares a rented house with senior offensive linemen Joe Hook, Jeff Gakos and Ty Patterson.
“I’d say they’ve answered a lot of questions and proved a lot of people wrong,” Wasilewski offered of a unit that has helped UMaine rank third in CAA total offense (455.2 yards per game), second in passing (261.5 ypg) and fifth in scoring (32.2 ppg).
Wasilewski also has demonstrated poise under difficult game conditions.
At Richmond on Sept. 28, he threw two interceptions in the end zone but still rallied the Black Bears to a 28-21 win.
“He’s been very much a stabilizing factor for this football team,” Cosgrove said. He has demonstrated calmness, coolness under fire when he’s made mistakes or others on the offense have made mistakes.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin said it also stems from Wasilewski’s dedication and his competitive nature.
“He’s a very tough kid, mentally and physically,” Bourgoin said. “He’s got a determination of, ‘We’re going to find a way.’ He’s got a lot of heart and he cares so much about his teammates, the football program, the coaches and the whole university.”
Wasilewski wants to be able to inspire his teammates. That job has been easier this season.
He quoted legendary Pennsylvania high school football coach George Curry in explaining his leadership approach.
“He told me, a quarterback is a guy who can lead everybody on his team in a positive direction,” Wasilewski said.
“When you’re the starter, you can take a little more effect, especially being a senior,” he added.
Wasilewski is finishing up his degree in exercise science and plans to pursue a master’s in the hope of becoming a physical therapist.