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A well-earned start
GSU LB Stevenson works for his spot
Georgia Southern linebacker John Stevenson, left, gets down the field in a hurry on a kickoff to stop Jacksonville's Colby Walden (12) on Sept. 1, in GSU's season opener in Paulson Stadium. Stevenson is currently tied for the lead among Eagle tacklers with 12.

Elon (2-1) at
No. 11 GSU (1-1, 0-1)

Saturday, 6 p.m.
Paulson Stadium
TV: None.
Radio: 103.7 FM

    Since the resurrection of Georgia Southern football, players like John Stevenson have been the backbone of the program.
    Stevenson will be one of the Eagles’ starting linebackers when they take on Elon at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Paulson Stadium. Like many who came before him and excelled Stevenson is a walk-on.
    However, Stevenson is not your typical walk-on who will normally spend a year on the scout squad as a freshman, and then work his way up through the ranks.
    Stevenson is a two-time walk-on. He got cut in his initial tryout in the fall of 2008, but refused to accept someone else’s opinion of his ability. At the next call for tryouts the following February, he showed up again.
    This time he stuck.
    “I tried out for Coach (Chris) Hatcher when I came to Georgia Southern,” Stevenson said. “They told me they didn’t have a place for me.”
    Stevenson (5-foot-11, 205-pounds) began his career as a safety, playing in 11 games on special teams as a redshirt freshman.
    When Jeff Monken arrived in 2010, Stevenson was moved to linebacker, and that fall played in 14 of the Eagles’ 15 games. He started in the playoff win at Wofford.
    Last year was a bit of a setback. He played in nine games, and did not dress out for the playoffs.
    “I didn’t get on the field (as a position player) last year,” Stevenson said. “But I didn’t get discouraged. I came out of the spring as a starter.
“I attribute a lot of that to my faith in God, hard work and determination. I’ve been No. 1 on the depth chart at other times, but God blessed me with coach Corless.”
    Linebackers coach Kevin Corless is in his first season at Georgia Southern, and Stevenson said in his first meeting Corless told the players it was a fresh start and new opportunity for everyone.
    “I took that to heart,” said Stevenson who played at Stephenson High School, a school well known for turning out Division-I talent. “He said we were all starting out even, and his word was good.”
    It didn’t take Stevenson long to catch Corless’s eye — 4.38 seconds to be exact.
    “Every one of the guys at linebacker has a different skill set,” Corless said. “John is not the most athletic guy, but at 205 pounds he can really run. His speed and quickness just jumps out at you.
    “John runs a 4.38 (seconds) in the 40 (yard dash). He’s the second fastest guy on our team. He’s a guy who cares. He has invested a lot in our program. We’ve got a lot of guys like that in our program. They take ownership.”
    In addition to his speed Stevenson’s work habits have also made an impression on Corless who spent nine years at Arkansas State where he was co-head coach and defensive coordinator before coming to Georgia Southern. John is an intelligent player. He understands and is a student of the game. Like all of our guys he studies a lot of tape. He’s very coachable.”
    Stevenson, along with Darius Eubanks, leads the Eagles with 12 tackles after two games. He had 10 tackles in the 23-21 loss at The Citadel.
    “That was a bitter pill to swallow,” Stevenson said. “We just have to put that in the back of our minds now, and move on. The Citadel is a better team than people give them credit for. It showed in the way they beat Appalachian State.
    “All we can do now is control the controllable.”