ORONO — In the University of Maine football locker room, the goal is to win games. In the process of winning, the secondary goal is to get on the wall.

“In the locker room and the hallways, it’s all older pictures. These guys are always asking questions,” Joe Harasymiak, Maine’s second-year head coach, said.

The wall is adorned with photographs of Maine’s professional football alumni. These are the men who took what they learned at Maine and used it at the next level. In the past 17 years, more than two dozen Maine players have been drafted or signed as a free agent with an NFL team. For a school Maine’s size, competing in the Football Championship Subdivision, that’s a lot.

Mike DeVito. Mike Flynn. Matt Mulligan.

“I think we do a good job, and obviously I got that from Coach Cos, of connecting the past with the present,” Harasymiak said, referring to Jack Cosgrove, his predecessor as Black Bears head coach. Cosgrove played at Maine and was the head coach for 23 seasons. He is a treasure trove of Maine football history.

“Coach Cos comes back, and he always gets me fired up,” senior offensive lineman Jamil Demby said. At 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, Demby is a team captain, a preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association selection, and one of the guys most talked about when talk turns to the next group of Black Bears likely to get a shot at the NFL. Demby looks at players like former teammate Bruce Johnson, who spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, and Chris Keating, who played at Maine in the 1970s before a seven-year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, as inspirations.

“Every time they come back, it’s amazing, because they have such great pride for this program. Before every game, or after a practice, they come,” Demby said. “They definitely motivate us. It kind of makes us appreciate it more, coming from Maine. A lot of first-year guys when they come here, they’re like, ‘OK, it’s cold.’ We don’t get a lot of nice gear, maybe. They might be underappreciative at first, but those guys really make you take a second look. Maine is definitely nothing but opportunity.”

When you walk across campus on a frigid January day, the University of Maine can feel like 1,000 miles from everywhere. The wall is proof that Orono isn’t so isolated after all.

“It’s extremely motivational, because it shows you hard work pays off. You can be from any school or any situation. Maine is an amazing platform for going to the next level. To see a guy do it is added motivation. He went through the same things we go through,” senior defensive back Najee Goode said.

Justin Perillo. Montell Owens. Stephen Cooper.

Goode doesn’t need the wall as proof that the road to pro football can run through Orono. He can talk to former teammates like Kendall James, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, or Patrick Ricard, who is a rookie in Baltimore Ravens camp right now, or Sherrod Baltimore and Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, who are having strong seasons in the Canadian Football League, for the Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos, respectively. Goode thinks of Trevor Bates, who was drafted last season by the Indianapolis Colts, and who is now in training camp with the New England Patriots. The wall is nice, but when you have guys in your contact list paving the way, that’s even better.

“Anybody who’s got any type of invite or anything, that’s motivation,” Goode said. “We always hear about those guys.”

Mike Buck. Lofa Tatupu. Daren Stone.

The Black Bears study the wall, looking for guys who played their position who moved on to the next level.

“If you’re a linebacker, you know who Stephen Cooper is. You know Lofa was here for a year. If you’re a DB, you know who Kendall James is. You know who Daren Stone is. You ask questions. How do you get your picture on the wall kind of type deal. It’s pretty cool when the guys take time and ask questions about this stuff,” Harasymiak said.

Jerron McMillian. Brandon McGowan. John Huard.

“A lot of those guys, they’ve been really inspirational,” Demby said. “They just showed me when I came up here, the brotherhood. They had a great school and a good education, and I just knew if I were to come here, I’d have that brotherhood. A family away from family.”

If you can play, the scouts will find you. There’s a lot of pictures on the Black Bears’ wall, and there will certainly be more.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM