ORONO — This wasn’t the full-volume Michael Kozlakowski, the guy who tore up the line of scrimmage during the Maine football spring game a year ago, then loudly and profanely let everyone hear about it.

Two seasons lost to injury tend to calm an athlete. But make no mistake, it hasn’t tempered Kozlakowski’s enthusiasm for his sport.

No. 5 was back at defensive end Saturday for the Black Bears, and his plan is to stay there, possibly for two more years.

“I see some of the younger guys on this team, when they look up to you, that motivates you to be positive,” Kozlakowski said after Maine’s spring practices concluded with the annual Jeff Cole Memorial Scrimmage at Alfond Stadium. “Nothing’s holding me back. I know it’s not my time for football to be over.”

Kozlakowski is a fifth-year senior, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound whirlwind from Lynbrook, New York, who saw two of those years end prematurely. In 2013 he ruptured a tendon in his biceps during summer practices. He endured the subsequent surgery and rehabilitation while his teammates captured the Colonial Athletic Association title, itching to get back on the field.

He finally did last August against Norfolk State, dropping two ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage before fate took another cruel twist. In the third quarter of that season-opening win, Kozlakowski felt the tendon rupture in his other biceps. More surgery, more rehabilitation, more prowling the sideline at football games he couldn’t join in.


“There were some moments where you kind of sit back and think, ‘Wow, these are the first two injuries I’ve had. Why me?’ ” Kozlakowski said. “I never thought about not coming back. I knew the process this time that I’d have to go through.”

Kozlakowski was quieter Saturday, but his presence was felt by his teammates and coaches. He didn’t record any sacks or level any running backs as the Maine offense, behind a much improved line, looked markedly better than last spring. But he didn’t have to.

“I’m excited to see him back out there. He’s a great energy; he brings it every day,” junior defensive tackle Darius Greene said.

Added Coach Jack Cosgrove: “It’s good to have him back and see him smiling again. You can’t truly smile when you’re missing something.”

Kozlakowski, who had five sacks as a sophomore in 2012, was missing his bookend, Trevor Bates, this spring. Bates sat out after shoulder surgery but should be fine by the start of his senior season.

With those two healthy, Maine figures to have the most dominant defensive ends in the league. Bates, a Westbrook native, had 51/2 sacks and three interceptions as Maine went 5-6 last fall. He’s unusually disruptive for someone at his position.


Combined with stout defensive tackles Greene and Patrick Ricard, Maine’s front four could be front and center in opposing quarterbacks’ nightmares.

“The thing you’re always concerned about is setting an edge to your defense. So having those two guys as the ends, setting an edge and really making everything go up the middle, is huge for us,” defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak said. “The athleticism of Bates obviously worries teams and then you’ve got Koz back with the motor he has. If we can rush four, you’re going to have a great chance to win the game. You can take some chances. I tell those guys, ‘I’m going to let you eat until you can’t eat anymore.’ ”

Kozlakowski admitted being a little cautious this spring, striving to become comfortable with his teammates again while pointing to the games that matter in the fall. He’s also looking to the autumn after that, petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2016. He has yet to hear about that.

“I’m trying to be patient. I don’t want to get myself too excited for the season. Just wait for the first game to come around, Boston College (Sept. 5), and then kind of let loose right there,” Kozlakowski said.

“Everything happens for a reason, and this is going to be my story.”

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