Nick Stevens’ performance in the Green and Gold game was indicative of his entire collegiate career.
For three quarters, the redshirt senior quarterback struggled to get much of anything going and looked nothing like the quarterback we saw down the stretch last season. Appearing to waste a golden opportunity to further cement himself as number one on the depth chart heading into summer, Stevens struggled mightily to make routine plays and found his team facing a multi-score deficit, which is almost unheard of in the offensive-friendly spring game.
Then, seemingly with the flick of a switch, Stevens and the first-team offense came firing back to life. After throwing three interceptions and failing to reach the endzone with the first team-offense for 75 percent of the game, the Green team (offense), led by Stevens, was able to erase a double-digit deficit and ultimately come away with a slim 43-40 victory.
In the fourth quarter comeback effort, Stevens was able to connect with his starting wide receivers Michael Gallup and Olabisi Johnson for a touchdown apiece. Stevens hit Gallup for a red zone touchdown early in the final period and connected with Johnson on a fade route for the winning score.
Albeit the game counted for nothing but pride and team bragging rights, Stevens’ fourth quarter performance was impressive and yet another example of how far the California native has come.
A true “grinder,” Stevens has faced adversity throughout his time at Colorado State. From competing with an older, more experienced Garrett Grayson, to beating out an up and coming Coleman Key in 2015 and then ultimately winning, losing and winning the job again in 2016, Stevens is more than used to having to look over his shoulder.
In spite of all of the hard times, nothing has seemed to break his spirit. Whenever he gets knocked on his ass, he shakes it off and goes back to work. After getting benched week one last season, Stevens could have have very easily quit on his team. Hell, we see it all the time in college football.
He chose to work instead. Then when he got his second chance, Stevens took the reins and helped guide the team to a 5-2 record over the final seven games. During that stretch, Stevens posted some of the best numbers of his career and put 35-plus points on the board in each of the final six games of the season.
In a generation when more and more players are transferring if they do not get their way, Stevens’ constant professionalism has been admirable. It also has made him beloved by his coaches and teammates. This has been evident throughout the program this spring.
I fully expect a healthy Collin Hill to compete with Stevens for the starting gig once again this fall, so it is too early to give a concrete answer on who will start for the Rams against Oregon State on August 26. For whatever it is worth, though, this writer feels that the job belongs to Stevens.
Stevens has the love and trust of his teammates. More than anything, though, he has proven to be the true leader of this team. If I were Mike Bobo this August, I would be rolling with No. 7, not because he is necessarily the best arm talent on the team, but because he has earned the right to be under center.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.