BOWLING GREEN — When Dave Clawson took over as coach of the Bowling Green State University football team, one of the players he inherited was kicker Stephen Stein.
Soon Clawson formed an opinion on the left-footed kicker — and the opinion wasn’t very good.
“When I first got here, I wouldn’t let him kick with the offensive line in front of him for fear one of those guys might get a concussion,” Clawson said. “Literally, those guys would snap and duck.
“We once had a lineman in the whirlpool after practice because a Stein kick had hit him in the backside, and he had a bad bruise.”
But that was a long time ago, and now Stein has become the Falcons’ primary kicker on extra points, where he has made 22 of 23 attempts this season.
“If you would have told me back then that this guy would ever take a meaningful kick for us, I might have resigned on the spot,” Clawson said with a laugh. “I make that point because people may not realize how hard that young man has worked to be in the position that he is.
“He worked so hard … Some guys have just worked themselves and willed themselves into being good football players.”
Stein is one of 14 players the Falcons will honor as seniors today before the noon kickoff of their contest against Kent State. The others playing in their final game at Doyt Perry Stadium are Austin Collier, Scott Hodges, Cory Johnson, Chris Jones, Mark Mays, Tim Moore, Matt Oczypok, John Pettigrew, Chip Robinson, Jordon Roussos, Bart Tanski, Dominique Wharton and Dwayne Woods.
It is an eclectic group, to be sure.
“There’s only one fifth-year senior who came here on scholarship [as part of the 2008 recruiting class], and that would be Chip Robinson,” Clawson said.
“We have a number of fourth-year seniors that were here as part of our first recruiting class, and I have to give credit to [former] coach [Gregg] Brandon and his staff that three or four of those guys were committed to that staff, and they held on to their commitment to Bowling Green.”
That group includes several linchpin players to the program, including All-MAC defenders such as Jones and Woods, as well as Roussos, a two-year starter on the offensive line.
This senior class includes walk-ons who eventually contributed to the program such as Stein and Tanski, who is one of the Falcons’ six captains this season; some junior-college players who provided depth on the offensive line, most notably Wharton and Hodges; and transfers such as Johnson, who came to BG from Houston and has been the Falcons’ long-snapper the past two seasons.
“Usually the majority of your senior class is fifth-year seniors who all came here together,” Clawson said. “Of our seniors, only one fits that category.
“They have become a tight-knit group.”
Clawson admitted that he has become fond of players such as Stein.
“I’ll be telling stories of Stephen Stein for the rest of my career,” Clawson said. “You never give up on anybody. When he leaves here, he’s going to be very successful at whatever he decides to do. He’s got a great work ethic, he perseveres.
“People get on him because he misses a kick, but he comes out here the next day unfazed by it. And he goes out there and works his butt off. I’m really proud of him, and I’m really glad he’s on our team.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.