As a shoulder-padded Jake Hurcombe iced an ankle on a sideline bench, his football teammate Nate Kahn sat on Stevenson's artificial turf in street clothes with his wounded foot resting in a plastic boot, as if a person needed to look any shorter and smaller next to the big Patriot whose beard is the only thing light about him.
Kahn, a senior fullback, says he's hoping to be back for the playoffs after he suffered a broken bone and torn ligaments in his right foot during Stevenson's Week-2 win over Glenbrook South.
Hurcombe insists his left ankle, which he tweaked during practice Tuesday, won't be an issue come Friday, when the 2-1 Patriots visit 0-3 Warren.
"I'm playing this week," said Hurcombe, a 6-foot-2, 275-pounder who's started at left offensive tackle the last two seasons and claims he's a lot physically stronger than last year.
"It's not a big deal."
Before Eastern Michigan University's scheduled home football game against Howard on a stormy Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich., recently, Hurcombe gave EMU offensive line coach Kurt Anderson a verbal commitment to continue his football career with the Mid-American Conference school.
It's a big deal.
Hurcombe will become the latest Stevenson offensive lineman to play at the Division I level, joining a group that includes former NFL players Matt O'Dwyer (Northwestern) and Drew Mormino (Central Michigan), Chris Rucks (Illinois), Alex Rucks (Northwestern), Marc Ramirez (Michigan), Ben Samson (Western Michigan) and Jake Wertz (Northern Illinois).
"The Stevenson community is very proud of Jake and all his accomplishments," Patriots coach Bill McNamara said. "He is a solid student-athlete."
A varsity player since his sophomore year, Hurcombe has gotten better every year, McNamara says. A big reason why is Hurcombe's work ethic in the off-season.
"Jake spent many hours in the weight room and running sprints," McNamara said. "He is the leader of our offensive line and provides a good example for the younger players."
Hurcombe will bring more than leadership qualities to Eastern Michigan. He'll carry with him a winning attitude, and winning consistently is something the Eagles haven't done for a long time. While Stevenson has made the playoffs every year Hurcombe has been alive -- 22 straight seasons -- Eastern Michigan headed into this season with just 10 wins since 2006.
This year, however, third-year head coach Ron English's squad is off to the program's first 2-0 start since 1989.
The Eagles play Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
"They're turning it around," Hurcombe said. "I've been watching their games online."
Eastern Michigan was the first Division I school to offer Hurcombe a scholarship, but that's not why he accepted the Eagles' offer.
"I really like the coaching staff," Hurcombe said. "I like all the facilities there and everything they're trying to do. I like what they're doing with the program."
Hurcombe projects to play guard or center in college, since, at 6-2, he's actually considered too short to play offensive tackle at the Division I level.
"Eastern Michigan is getting a quality student and exceptional football player for their program," McNamara said of Hurcombe, who owns a 3.5 GPA (4.0 scale) and scored a 26 on his ACT.
Hurcombe took an unofficial visit to EMU with his parents on Saturday, Sept. 2. After talking to Anderson and verbally committing to play for the Eagles, Hurcombe was planning to watch the team's game against Howard. But a heavy thunderstorm postponed the game until the next day.
"Driving home, it was probably one of the worst storms I've seen," Hurcombe said. "It was bad."
That was a big deal.