Hampden Academy junior Logan Steward got a taste of major college athletics recently during a visit to the Oklahoma University football complex.
“It was huge,” said Steward, a running back, wide receiver and defensive back who as a sophomore helped the Broncos reach the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals last fall. “They had six fields, an indoor training center with a turf field inside. It was incredible.
“It was a great experience to go there, you could really feel the big-time atmosphere.”
But Steward was much more than a tourist during this sojourn — he was named the most valuable running back among his rising junior classmates at the National Underclassmen Combine Top Prospect Development Camp held at the Norman, Okla., campus.
Steward was the only Mainer among the several hundred attendees from throughout the country who had been invited to the two-day camp based on their performances at local and regional combines earlier this year.
The 5-foot-9, 188-pound Steward earned similar MVP honors among his peers in the Class of 2013 at an NUC event in Scarborough in May, then was invited to the Ultimate 100 East Camp at Bear, Del., in June where he performed well enough to be invited to Oklahoma.
“I’d definitely say the talent was a lot better than before,” said Steward, who was greeted upon his arrival Oklahoma by temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees. You could tell a lot of the players there were legit, they knew what they were doing and you could tell they had been coached.
“But I went in confident, thinking I’d just play my hardest and that I could go out and play and do the drills and not back down and give it my all.”
The Oklahoma camp was different than the earlier combines, Steward said, as the focus was more on drills that tested footwork, lateral quickness, balance and cutting ability than establishing baseline measurements in such events as the 40-yard dash and vertical leap.
There also were one-on-one and two-on-two football drills matching offensive players against defenders, as well as a seven-on-seven tournament — Steward’s team won the Class of 2013 division with a 5-0 record, winning the championship game on his touchdown catch in the final 20 seconds of play.
“When I scored that touchdown to win the game,” Steward said, “the quarterback came up to me and said, ‘You can play, just keep it up.’”
Steward now hopes to take what he has gained from that experience — much of it intangible — and apply it toward helping Hampden Academy challenge for a Class B championship this fall.
“When you’re competing against kids who could be better or at least at the same level and you do well, it’s a great confidence booster,” said the 17-year-old Steward. “One of the big things I’m bringing back to Hampden is that I feel like more of a leader than I did before.”
He’s also bringing something home that has less to do with football but is just as important to him.
“I think the one thing I really enjoyed from doing this was meeting new people and making some friends,” he said. “It was a whole lot of fun.”