University of Maine football coach Jordan Stevens, left, greets Colby College coach Jack Cosgrove, right, at the Maine college football luncheon Monday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

BRUNSWICK — When Jordan Stevens was hired as the University of Maine’s football coach in December, how long did he wait until he talked to Jack Cosgrove, his mentor and head coach when Stevens played for the Black Bears?

“Minutes,” Stevens said. “It was really cool. He means a lot to me. The relationship is very strong. We speak almost every week. I can’t thank him enough for his support of me.”

Cosgrove, now in his fifth season as coach at Colby College after retiring from a 23-year run as Maine’s head coach following the 2015 season, admits that he feigned surprise when he took Stevens’ call.

“I pretended not to know he had the job when he called. But I knew. I just felt so good for him,” Cosgrove said. “I was pulling for him. I was campaigning for Jordan. There was were a number of guys I thought could’ve gotten it, but Jordan was at the top of the list.”

Dozens of Cosgrove’s former players moved into the coaching ranks. He believes Stevens is the first to become a Division I head coach.

Stevens played for Cosgrove at Maine from 2006-09, serving as a team captain during a senior season in which he earned all-Colonial Athletic Association third-team honors as a defensive end. On Monday, the old coach and his player were part of the annual Maine college football kickoff luncheon at Bowdoin College.


Stevens and the Black Bears begin preseason camp Thursday, with the opening game set for Sept. 3 at the University of New Mexico. Cosgrove and the Mules open camp later this month, and open the season Sept. 17 at home against Williams.

After a four-year playing career in which Stevens started for three seasons as a linebacker and defensive end on the Black Bears, he tried his hand as a pro player, attending rookie minicamp with the Detroit Lions. In 2011, Stevens joined Cosgrove’s staff as what Cosgrove called “a young, underpaid assistant.”

“He’s got a real skill in evaluating talent. He was one of our, without a doubt, best recruiters. Somebody who played that defensive line position and mastered the techniques and fundamentals and was a great teacher,” Cosgrove said.

Stevens first met Cosgrove attending football camps at Maine as a high school player at Mt. Blue in Farmington. The Temple native wanted to play Division I football, but upon graduation from Mt. Blue in 2005, he simply wasn’t ready.

Stevens went to Bridgton Academy for a postgrad year, and that is where he caught the eye of Cosgrove and then defensive coordinator Rich Nagy. The coaches offered him a scholarship on the spot after watching a workout in December 2005, shortly after Bridgton’s season ended.

“It was not just his abilities. We were really sold on him as a young man, with his values and his work ethic. And it all proved to be true. There’s not a lot of things you had to do to get Jordan excited about the game. He woke up excited about it,” Cosgrove said.


As a player, Stevens clicked with Cosgrove instantly.

“I felt like there was a similarity to the coaches I had growing up. (Cosgrove) demanded similar things. I felt like I always fared well under his system because a lot of the things he was looking for were things I think I embodied. A toughness, hard-working, disciplined,” Stevens said.

“I always appreciated his honesty and his willingness to pull me aside. That’s something, at that age, that was really impactful, to be supported by your head coach that way.”

After four seasons as an assistant at Maine, Stevens moved on to Yale in 2016. Last season, he was Yale’s co-defensive coordinator.

As a coach, Stevens tries to emulate Cosgrove’s consistency, energy and attention to detail.

“He’s very organized. I used to sit right next to him in staff meetings. I sat there for four years. I saw all his notes, how he held a pen, how he did everything. How he took notes, how he ran a meeting. I had a front row seat,” Stevens said.

As the president of the Howard Vandersea Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation, it was Cosgrove’s job to offer a welcome statement at Monday’s luncheon. He began with a special welcome to the two new head coaches at the head table, Matt Coyne of Bates and Stevens. As he spoke, Cosgrove turned to his left and looked Stevens in the eye.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Cosgrove said.

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