ORONO – University of Maine running back Jared Turcotte spent his summer in the gym, preparing his body to return to football — to charge with the ball, power through blocks and eat up yardage.

He’s also been quietly thinking about the kind of husband and father he wants to be.

Next Saturday, Turcotte will twirl on the dance floor after marrying Allysha Jones, a Maine cheerleader who is carrying the couple’s first daughter: Aiva Jeannette Turcotte, expected Sept. 19, one day after Maine plays Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

“Everything is happening so fast,” Turcotte said on campus this week with a smile that could light up a night game. “It wasn’t planned, but it’s a blessing for sure. It’s a part of my life. It’s not a burden or something I think of as a chore. It’s something I look forward to.”

Turcotte is the bruising running back from Lewiston who rushed for a team-high 625 yards in 2008 to help Maine reach the NCAA playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

He spent a painstaking season on the sidelines in 2009 after a pair of lower abdominal surgeries, and a recovery process that was far longer than anyone expected.

He played most of spring football in a non-contact jersey but has been cleared for contact when preseason begins Aug. 7.

“Last year had to be incredibly frustrating for him. I know how much it was for us,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove, who knocks the wood of his desk before finishing his thought. “There’s been no setbacks. So that’s the plan, to let him go full bore in camp.”

As Turcotte was rehabbing from surgery in the offseason, he and Allysha got news of her pregnancy. Their decision to get married took no time at all.

“It was important to him that he be there for Allysha and the child from the beginning,” said Nadine Turcotte, Jared’s mother. “There was never a question that he wouldn’t be. He was concerned about not being able to afford being married. But I told him to follow his heart and the rest would come.”

Nadine was a single mom who played the role of mother and father in a house of three boys in Lewiston.

Jared spent time with his cousins, whose dad always seemed to be there. He learned how much that mattered.

“I didn’t used to think about it, but looking back I had to mature fast,” said Turcotte. “My mom used to say I had an old soul.”

That’s the Turcotte that Allysha knows.

She is a former Gorham High cheerleader who met Turcotte her freshman year at Maine. She will be a junior in the fall and plans to continue her degree in early childhood education.

She cried when he proposed.

They both say despite the timing of things, they knew they’d end up together.

“I think he’ll be a really good dad,” said Jones. “I’ve seen him around my cousins and his. It’s so cute.”

Cosgrove and Turcotte spoke for some time after learning of the pregnancy. His coach shared his thoughts and ideas.

“It’s something that’s not real common here,” said Cosgrove. “But he’s got to do all the things expected of him as a member of this football team. We don’t segregate on this team based on race, creed, color, single, married. Based on my evaluation of him, he’ll be able to embrace the responsibility he’ll have.

“I feel confident he will be just fine.”

So does his mom.

“I’m confident this will be good for him. He’s always known a family was part of his future. He’s always had that kind of presence about him. He kind of gets it. He sees his place in the world,” she said.

She and Jared’s brothers have felt Allysha was “the one” since she first came into his life. And Turcotte himself always figured he’d be engaged before college ended.

“She’s very reserved when you first meet her, but I was quick to learn that is no weakness,” said Nadine. “She’s a very strong woman. I see how she interacts with him. She’s strong, but in a quiet, controlled way. They complement each other well.”

Turcotte, who is also a strong student, has been working 25 to 30 hours a week this summer to save money. The pair are working on finding an apartment off campus for the fall.

He said he’s been reading fatherhood books and getting pointers, and that he can hardly wait.

“I remember my mom telling me she didn’t realize her purpose in the world until my older brother was born,” said Turcotte.

“I’m anxious for (our daughter) to get here. To be responsible for another human being.

“I remember when I was 11 or 12, my mom’s best friend had a baby. He’d cry and cry and they’d sit him in my lap and he’d stop. I’d have to sit there for hours with him. That baby loved me.”

They’ve planned the wedding on a budget.

The whole football team is invited — after the food is served.

And when football starts next month, Turcotte will be a husband, awaiting his first child.

“He’s in love with a wonderful woman and they’re having a child,” said Nadine Turcotte. “It’s really all about how you handle yourself. I couldn’t be more proud. He is in true Jared form.

“I told him you’ll never stop amazing me.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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