Vol. LXI, No. 37
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
STEMMING THE TIDE: Princeton University football co-captain Jon Stem, right, and fellow captain Brendan Circle are all smiles as they pose during the program's annual media day last month. Stem, a senior linebacker who has played many roles for the Tigers over the years, is primed to be in a leadership position as the Tigers defend their Ivy League crown. Princeton opens its 2007 campaign by hosting Lehigh on September 15.
Jon Stem has filled a lot of roles for the Princeton University football team over the last few years.
As a freshman, the Greensburg, Pa. native paid his dues, soaking up knowledge from the team's veterans and seeing some action on special teams.
In his sophomore season, Stem emerged as a key special teams performer, making a key fumble recovery on a kickoff in the Penn game as he posted eight tackles on the season.
Last fall in Princeton's Ivy League championship campaign, Stem started at inside linebacker, making 35 tackles, including three for a loss and three sacks.
With the Tigers kicking off their 2007 campaign this Saturday against visiting Lehigh, Stem is filling a key leadership role for Princeton as one of the team's co-captains.
Stem is excited to fill the captain's role which he will share with senior receiver Brendan Circle. "It was a great honor obviously, especially because the players vote on it," said the 6'0, 205-pound Stem.
"It's your classmates and everyone on the team choosing you and looking up to you. It also means a lot because there were eight guys in our grade who could've been captain."
While the captain's role will be new to Stem, he has been groomed to be a leader through working with his fellow linebackers under the tutelage of position coach Don Dobes.
"As a linebacker, you're in the middle of things and making calls," said Stem. "You always have to step up and be a leader. Coach Dobes and all the guys before passed down to us that you are expected to lead. It is something that is expected of the position."
After going 16-4 the past two seasons, the best record in the Ivy League over that time, Princeton has grown to expect victory. In Stem's view, that kind of winning feeling came to the fore in the 2005 season which saw Princeton go 7-3 and finish second in the league.
"I noticed it in in 2005; I think one of the biggest differences was that the guys started believing we could win," recalled Stem.
"I know in my freshman year and in years past, there were always close games and that we didn't come out on top for whatever reason. I think that season we had guys who had played a lot and they were seniors who knew how to handle those situations. They passed that on to everybody else."
In Princeton's championship season last fall, that belief was reinforced as the Tigers came from behind several times in their magical 9-1 campaign. "It was the same sort of thing; the guys kept believing," said Stem.
"A great example was the Yale game. Defensively we had been pounded the whole first half. At halftime we went into the locker room and everyone said 'this is our game.' I feel that was the biggest thing; to have confidence and belief that you are going to do it."
Stem isn't concerned that any complacency will set in this year in the wake of Princeton's success the last two falls.
"I don't really see that as being a problem yet," maintained Stem. "Having done well, all of the guys want to taste it again. It's not an issue where we have to come out and motivate guys. Everybody works hard, it's a great group of guys."
That elevated work ethic was instilled in Stem during his freshman season. "One of the things I learned my freshman year was how to work hard and what hard work actually is," recalled Stem. "It's not just lifting weights and running hard, it's learning everything, reviewing film, and carrying yourself well off the field."
Stem is poised to fill another role as he is moving to outside linebacker this season. "It's good," said Stem, referring to the switch.
"I've been kind of a utility guy; I've played every spot throughout my four years. I figured with Luke [Steckel] graduating, it would be a possibility. It's somewhere that I have played before and it's just a matter of seeing things and reacting."
The Tigers will have to react well if they are going to top Lehigh this Saturday.
"They are a very good team; their quarterback is back [Sedale Threatt] and he's very athletic," said Stem.
"We have to play our responsibilities and gaps. We know that if we go out and do what we have to do and believe in ourselves, we can be a good football team."
And with the dependable Stem filling the co-captain's role, the Tigers have a leader they can believe in.
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