Camdenton senior Marcus Stephens is a man more about results over recognition.

Camdenton senior Marcus Stephens is a man more about results over recognition.

The 5-foot-9, 250-pound nose guard is who the Lakers turned to on the defensive line each Friday night to stuff the offense in the middle of the line of scrimmage and it is a role that has now led to some recognition as he signed with Westminster College on Thursday.

“I’m very excited and ready to go play there. I’ve been wanting to play college ball for a long time, it has just been my goal,” Stephens said of the new opportunity at the Division III school in Fulton where he enjoyed a visit about a month prior.

A staple of Camdenton’s football tradition actually involves recognizing the linemen as “Pappy’s Hogs” in honor of longtime former assistant Jim Pirch who made the unit a source of pride. Stephens did a lot of the work, though, that may not necessarily show up in the box score. He took on double teams and if there was a pile near the line of scrimmage, the senior enforcer likely had a role in causing it in the first place.

“He was a quiet leader and led by example so that was really good. His actions spoke a lot louder than his words and the best compliment I can give him is he was just a Camdenton Laker,” said Camdenton assistant Cole Walker, a former “Hog” himself. “He just works hard, did not get any recognition and just kept going and going. Took on a ‘two team’ (double team) and is just a true definition of a Laker.

“Probably a little smaller and slower and not as powerful as everybody, but he always got it done.”

Stephens mentioned the idea of perseverance and all the time he spent in the weight room to continually improve. It translated to becoming a starter by his junior season and in his final year as a Laker this past fall, he racked up 24 total tackles (10 solo), with 6 1/2 resulting in a loss including half of a sack. He also was quick to recover two fumbles and one of those fumble recoveries resulted in a touchdown.

The work Stephens put in was noticed not only by Westminster, but apparently by John Roderique who is the coach of 15-time state champion Webb City. The Cardinals were the team who beat the undefeated Lakers in the state quarterfinals on their way to another title this past fall, but not before Walker recalled the coach coming up to him after the game to compliment a senior “who could not be blocked.”

“He did a tremendous job for us two years in a row. He’s just a great blend of quickness with his size and relentless,” Camdenton head coach Jeff Shore remarked. “He really worked hard to get in shape and he wanted to make sure he played every snap of the game. Just proud of him, a great career here.”

Another assistant and former “Hog” in Travis Sanford certainly agrees. He had the privilege of watching Stephens develop from the senior’s time as a seventh grader into a collegiate signee.

“Super proud of Marcus,” the coach noted. “He’ll take on a ‘two team’ and not care. He is not going to back down from that and whatever was going to help the team win, he was willing to do. Just to see his growth from middle school to going to play college ball now has been pretty awesome to see.”

Taking on the double teams and everything else he was asked to do was surely worth it, too, if it meant being part of a program that made two straight state quarterfinal appearances with a pair of district championships and an Ozark Conference title in the mix as part of a 23-3 run the past two seasons alone.

“It has been amazing. I’ve loved every minute of it and it has been the best experience of my life,” Stephens said of his time as a Laker. “I’m ready to move on to the next chapter.”

With Stephens moving on, Shore will be in the hunt for a new nose guard to step up and fill that role and there are probably a few things that new nose guard can learn.

“The main thing is just his toughness. You never heard one word out of him and he was going to play absolutely as hard as he could,” Shore said of Stephens. “Just so unselfish and did such a good job of disrupting that middle at the nose guard position in the middle of the team’s offense. We’ve had really good defenses the past two years and he was part of it.”

Stephens plans to study education at Westminster and plans to go into coaching as well while he plays defensive line for the Blue Jays. The senior said he learned to “keep pushing through” and “never give up” during his time as a “Hog” and Walker was glad to see him carry on a tradition that will likely serve him well in the college ranks.

“Just keep the tradition alive,” the assistant said for any and all future “Hogs” who play for Camdenton and may also play elsewhere. “Coach Sanford and I and all of us got to do it and Marcus just wanted to be a Camdenton Laker. That allowed him to go play collegiately so just do that. Be yourself, be a Camdenton Laker and the rest will take care of itself.”