ORONO, Maine — Jamil Demby said he can only recall carrying a football once in his 13-year football career dating back to his youth league days.
“It was in Midget League,” recalled Demby. “I begged them to let me run a two-point conversion.”
Did he score?
“Yeah. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt the ball in my hands,” grinned Demby, the University of Maine’s outstanding offensive tackle
Instead, the junior has been opening holes for the guys who do lug the ball or protecting quarterbacks since he was 7.
Playing on the offensive line is a demanding and important role for which the players often receive little recognition.
“We love seeing our running back get out there [in the open],” said Demby. “That’s what glorifies what we do.”
Demby’s role is even more magnified by the fact he is the left tackle. That means he has to cover the “blind side” of right-handed quarterbacks, which has been the norm at UMaine and includes senior Dan Collins.
“I like the fact we’re a unit within a unit. A lot of teams that are successful have a strong unit up front,” said Demby.
“I like the physicality of it … making blocks. [I like] being big and using the gift I have that not many other people have,” said Demby.
What Demby possesses is a powerful, 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame and impressive athleticism to go with it.
“He has great technique, he’s powerful, and he has good feet for a big guy,” said UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak. “He is a hard worker. And he is a good leader. He has been chosen captain by his teammates for seven of our eight games.
“He has been playing with more confidence this year. He knows he can become a great player,” he added.
UMaine offensive line coach Jeff Ambrosie believes Demby has the potential to play in the NFL some day.
“He’s an all-conference type of kid. He’s one of the best in the league,” Ambrosie said. “He has real good feet. He has been doing an outstanding job.”
Demby started 10 games as a freshman after catching the coaching staff’s eye in practice.
“He showed he could block [UMaine All-Colonial Athletic Association defensive end] Trevor Bates,” Ambrosie said. “If you can block Trevor Bates, you can play in this league.”
The 20-year-old Demby, a former all-conference player and All-South Jersey selection at Vineland High School in New Jersey, feels he has improved every year and focuses on his technique.
“There are strong, fast guys just like you around the country, but the one thing that’s going to make you successful is the right footwork … hands inside. The small technical things make a big difference,” Demby said.
The focus on technique was established his freshman year.
“I wasn’t the strongest as a freshman, so I always had to focus on my technique. I had to make my technique more clean and more sound,” said Demby.
He has been committed to the offseason training regimen and has become a student of the game.
“Mentally, I’m a lot better. The game is slower to me now,” Demby said of his ability to process the game more efficiently.
He and the other members of a youthful offensive line suffered growing pains two years ago as UMaine allowed a league-worst 41 sacks. Last fall, they surrendered only 18, tied for second best in the conference.
UMaine has surrendered just 10 sacks through eight games this season and only one over the last three games.
“His growth and maturity has made [Collins] feel a lot safer this year,” said Ambrosie.
UMaine has the No. 2 passing offense in the league, averaging 222.8 yards per game. The Black Bears, winners of five straight, will put that to the test against the CAA’s best defense in Villanova at noon Saturday in Orono.
“We have definitely come a long way this season,” Demby said. “There have been a lot of changes in the offensive line, but now I think we’re definitely starting to finalize and gel together.”
He credits his parents, Shane and Jasmine, and his youth league coaches for being major influences in his career.
“I always liked football, but I never really loved it, and they made me grow to love it,” he said.
“I started to really love it in high school. I saw what it could do for me,” he added.
Demby was recruited by several schools but chose UMaine because he “felt a brotherhood not a lot of schools had.”
This is where I belonged, and it has been working out pretty good,” he said.