Cool, calm and comfortable: Stevens ready for 'second step'
When Tommy Stevens went in motion last year, late in the game against Iowa, it was already too late for the Hawkeyes.
“They probably didn’t know who I was at the time,” Stevens said, recalling the play in early August.
Penn State was driving for another touchdown en route to steamrolling Iowa at Beaver Stadium, and the Nittany Lion formation included both starting quarterback Trace McSorley, and Stevens, the backup who battled McSorley for the top spot most of last summer.
Once McSorley went in motion, he said he heard McSorley call out the cadence, saying that “it was time to go.” After receiving the shotgun snap, McSorley immediately handed off to McSorley, who took a direct line — through a handful of defenders — until he fell into the south end zone, setting off an exuberant celebration in front of the student section.
Standing a few feet away when Stevens scored, it also felt like an emotional release, a player widely recognized with superior skills finally having a moment where the spotlight shined on him, even if only for a few moments.
It’s likely that Stevens would be the starting quarterback on most other teams in the country. The redshirt sophomore from Indianapolis boasts a big arm and plenty of confidence. It makes a ton of sense that Penn State would try to get him on the field as much as possible, and he ran over (literally) a handful of Iowa defenders on his way to scoring his first career rushing touchdown.
When the team incorporated the play in practice, Stevens said he was obviously excited, and he really wanted the team to run the play. Except the plan didn’t go exactly as he had thought. He figured on throwing the ball to receiver DeAndre Thompkins, but when the the defender opted to cover Thompkins on a bubble screen, Stevens said he “tried to make a play and get in the end zone.”
He most definitely did, and Stevens’ bulldozing run helped cap the Nittany Lions’ 41-14 runaway victory over the Hawkeyes.
Fast forward to this season, and Stevens continues to look and feel the part of a big-time player. True, he’s backing up McSorley at quarterback, but Stevens, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 224 pounds, gives off the vibe of a primetime performer. He’s transformed his body since arriving at Penn State, adding approximately 50 pounds and growing a few more inches. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger, thanks to the strength and conditioning staff,” Stevens said. “I know a lot more about football then I did when I first got here, so that’s credit to the staff, and credit to the guys on the team for helping me learn.”
What Stevens also has going for him is that he’s got “the best coordinator in the country” — his words — in offensive guru Joe Moorhead. There are an endless list of options available to Penn State’s offense, he said, and perhaps more than any other reason, that’s why Stevens gave a cool smile while wearing a backwards hat in giving this synopsis:
“I couldn’t be more comfortable than I am right now. I’m really excited to take a second step in this offense and pick up right where we left off last year.”