In a sport where quarterbacks and wide receivers get all the glory, it’s easy to forget about playmakers on the opposite side of the football.
Ferris sophomore linebacker Delon Stephenson is flipping that script, shocking Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opponents with his football savvy.
“He’s probably one of the smartest football players on our team,” Ferris football linebacker coach Ryan Brady said. “He sees things very well on the field and puts himself in a good position to make a lot of good plays.”
The defensive side of the football has always been called the “backbone” of a football team, supporting the squad when the offense can’t. Defensive standouts don’t always get credit where credit is due, but they often become the players that deliver a dagger at a crucial moment in a game.
Stephenson has delivered that dagger for the Bulldogs several times this season, delivering a team-high six interceptions (first in the GLIAC) – two of those resulting in touchdowns — and coming away with 51 total tackles.
“He’s got really good ball skills,” Brady said. “So, when the ball comes his way, he takes advantage of it.”
Stephenson is a rare talent at the Division II level, starting his collegiate career in 2013 with Rutgers University before transferring to Kansas Wesleyan University and then to his current home with the Bulldogs.
Ferris, who was slim at talent at the linebacker position following the departure of KC Zenner, Nick Huckabay and current Cleveland Brown Tavierre Thomas, found a missing piece for their defense.
Ferris senior defensive tackle Jamil Pollard, who has only been with the Bulldogs for two years, noticed a difference on the defense since Stephenson joined.
“I arrived last year, and our defense was amazing, but I felt we were missing something,” Pollard said. “As the only returning starter, I can see that the defense has found the missing link.”
Last year, the Bulldogs went 11-2, losing to Harding University in the NCAA Division II National Quarterfinals super regional championship.
This year, the Bulldogs are 10-0 and looking to post their second undefeated regular season in three years, with the last one coming in 2015.
The Bulldogs are set to face William Jewell University 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, in Missouri.