Cal standout Stevens has attention of NFL scouts
By Jeff Vella
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 10:44 p.m.
Someday, B.J. Stevens plans to chase criminals. For now, he's focused on chasing quarterbacks.
Stevens, a defensive end and linebacker for Cal (Pa.), enters his senior year as one of the top pass-rushers in Division II. The Gateway graduate is a preseason first-team All-American following a season in which he set school records with 141⁄2 sacks and 221⁄2 tackles for losses. He led D-II with 1.32 sacks per game.
“He's so quick,” Vulcans coach Mike Kellar said. “He's such a good athlete. We'll have passing drills, and there's a million times when I'm on the field, and I'm like, ‘That sucker is offsides.' And we'll go back and watch it on tape, and he's not.”
Stevens is on track to graduate with a degree in justice studies and a minor in criminology. He said he eventually wants to become a cop or a detective, and he got a taste of the profession while interning with the Ross Police Department over the summer.
“From watching shows like ‘Law and Order,' it's extremely different. Nobody solves a crime in 30 minutes, obviously,” he said with a laugh. “It was cool to be in a cop car and see what they do.”
Stevens' law enforcement career might be on hold if he has a strong senior season. His name is appearing on NFL Draft sites, and scouts from eight to 10 teams already have attended Cal practices, Kellar said.
“You never know how things are going to turn out, but in my mind, B.J. is an NFL prospect all day long,” Kellar said of Stevens, who at 6-foot-2, 245 pounds projects as a linebacker at the next level. “He's sudden. He's smart. He can play the run. He can play the pass. He'd be very good in a 3-4 as an outside rush guy.”
The Vulcans have sent a steady stream of players to NFL camps in recent years, with many of them being Division I transfers or former D-I prospects. Stevens fits the latter description; he drew interest from BCS schools coming out of Gateway in 2008. His older brother Jordan was playing at Miami (Ohio), so Stevens chose the Redhawks over Michigan and West Virginia. But Stevens said he didn't qualify academically, so he attended Cal and had to redshirt as a freshman.
“That year taught me a lot because I never took academics seriously,” Stevens said. “I was an immature kid, and that opened my eyes because I realized nobody was going to be babying me. Now I'm a 3.5 student.”
Stevens said he's “humbled” by the draft talk but is focused solely on a senior season that begins 7 p.m. Saturday at Hillsdale (Mich.). With Cal switching to a 3-4 defense, he'll get the opportunity to drop into coverage, but make no mistake, he'll spend much of his time doing what he does best.
“B.J. has a great, innate ability to rush the passer,” Vulcans defensive line coach Mike Jacobs said. “His hands and his get-off, you can't teach. Those are God-given talents.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.
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