Fofie Bazzie (24) takes the field with his University of Maine football teammates at Morse Field in Orono, Maine. Credit: Seth Poplaski / University of Maine Athletics

He has a unique first name, but it is one that is becoming familiar in the Colonial Athletic Association.

That’s because University of Maine free safety Fofie Bazzie is currently leading the conference with 31 tackles and 10.33 tackles per game.

He had a career-high 13 tackles in Saturday’s 31-26 win over Merrimack College. Bazzie’s also tied for sixth in the conference in passes defended per game with 1.33 as he has four pass breakups in three games.

Bazzie, a University of Maryland transfer, said that Fofie is a family name.

“I got it from my grandfather, but I never met him,” Bazzie said. “My people are from Liberia in West Africa. I hold the name very close to me and take a lot of pride in it. It is very unique.”

He is also taking a lot of pride in his game play.

“I’m very excited about the way I’ve been playing but I want to take my game to the next level,” Bazzie said. “There is more work to be done. I want to get my hands on the ball more. I want to come up with some interceptions and more [pass] breakups for the team.”

Even though he has only been in Orono for a year, he has already assumed a leadership role.

“He gets us ready to go,” said senior linebacker Adrian Otero. “He has that energy every day … mornings, meetings, everything.”

“I don’t know another guy on our team or anywhere who has as much energy as Fofie,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson. “He comes out every day and works.”

Bazzie made his UMaine debut this past spring and was involved in six tackles including one for loss while playing in two games. An elbow injury he described as “freakish” ended his season prematurely.

“I’m glad I was able to come back quicker than expected and I am healthy now,” he said.

The spring season was valuable because he had a chance to play with his new teammates and get used to UMaine’s defensive scheme, Bazzie said. He immersed himself in learning the playbook when he arrived last fall.

“He is a high-energy guy,” said UMaine head coach Nick Charlton. “He knows his strengths and where he needs to get better. He has done a very good job against the run and in pass coverage.”

The 6-foot, 200-pound Bazzie grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, just 8 miles from the University of Maryland campus in College Park.

“I grew up watching University of Maryland football and feel fortunate that I was recruited by the hometown team,” Bazzie said. “Being able to play for your hometown team and help them is unique.”

He was a redshirt in 2017 and appeared in one game in 2018 before playing in seven games in 2019 and registering four tackles.

The Terrapins played four top 20 teams among their 12 games in 2019.

He earned a degree in family science in 3 1/2 years at Maryland and is working toward a second bachelor’s degree at UMaine.

“I love working with kids as well as with older people and helping them out. I want to inspire them,” Bazzie said.

His decision to come north to play football had a lot to do with Charlton and special teams coordinator/safeties coach Jared Keyte.

“I knew there was great football up here, a great school and a great community. I’m blessed to be here. I love it up here,” said Bazzie, who earned a spot on the 2016 American Family Insurance All-USA Maryland team and was also a first team Washington Post All-Metro choice when he was at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

And when it comes to the battle of the seafood, Bazzie is loyal to his roots.

“I love lobster, but crabcakes will always win. I’m a Maryland guy.”

UMaine, 1-2, visits Football Bowl Subdivision school Northern Illinois, also 1-2, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.