Mt. Blue’s Eddie Hebert signs his National Letter of Intent under the watchful eye of his mother, Jennifer Hebert, right, and brother, Josh Hebert on left. Contributed photo

For Mt. Blue senior Eddie Hebert and Winthrop senior Jevin Smith, choosing the University of Maine was a way to honor their family.

“I’ve always wanted to go there. My father (Kerry Hebert, who died in 2017) went there. He went there for Forestry, and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. When the opportunity to play football as well came, it was just too good to pass up,” Hebert, an offensive lineman, said.

A defensive lineman, Smith has followed the Maine football team with his father for years, he said.

“My dad went there. I always wanted to play a larger school. When I went up there (to Maine) they welcomed me with open arms,” Smith said.

On Wednesday, Hebert and Smith made it official, signing their National Letters of Intent to play college football for the Black Bears.

Hebert and Smith join a class of 17 players, including five from Maine. Joining Hebert and Smith as Mainers in the Black Bears recruiting class are offensive lineman David Gross of Bucksport, winner of the Gaziano Award as the state’s top offensive lineman last season; Bryce Henaire, a linebacker from Bangor; and Marek Veal, an offensive lineman from Washington Academy in East Machias.

Maine’s recruiting class also includes wide receiver Montigo Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer and former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss.

Both Hebert and Smith are preferred walk-ons at Maine, meaning they receive no athletic scholarship but have a place on the roster.

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“Jevin is one of the top players in the state of Maine and will be an extremely hard worker on the defensive line. He has great potential and brings a strong work ethic to the classroom, community, and football field,” Maine head coach Nick Charlton said in a statement released by the university. “Eddie had a great career at Mt. Blue High School… and is ready to take the next step in his career as a student-athlete. Eddie will be a critical addition to the program, especially being part of the best group of in-state players in recent memory.”

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Hebert played left tackle for the Cougars, helping Mt. Blue average just under 37 points per game and advance to the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals. Hebert didn’t begin playing football until his sophomore year at Mt. Blue. He credited the coaching staff of the Cougars that season, especially former head coach Nate Quirion, for instilling his work ethic and love of the sport.

“The coaching staff under Coach Q was a very intense staff, and they prepared me for the next step. He really wanted a high level of dedication with the winter program,” Hebert said. “We worked out twice a week, and if you didn’t make it you got on a hit list. It built the foundation of buying into a program.”

Hebert knows there will be an adjustment to the talent he’ll face at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

“It’s going to be a step up,” Hebert said. “It’s a big change going from a high school program with a high school workload to a college program and a college workload… I have some size. If I can be quick enough, I can really bring a lot to the table for them.”

Smith echoed Hebert’s sentiments on the challenges coming at Maine.

“It’s basically a job. It’s a commitment. You have to give everything you’ve got because that’s what it takes to win,” the 6-4, 220-pound Smith said.

An all-Campbell Conference selection last fall, Smith helped lead Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale to an 8-2 season and the conference championship game. Recruited as a defensive lineman, Smith said Maine coaches told him he could move to tight end.

“This year we had a number of guys, sizewise and talentwise, that we projected could play at the Division I level. These are some of the best offensive line prospects we’ve hard, particularly from the state, since I’ve been here. These are guys we feel can play Division I. We’re fortunate to be able to get them,” Charlton said.

Maine went 6-6 last season, after advancing to the FCS semifinals the season before. The Black Bears open the season on Sept. 3 at Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Ball State. Maine’s first home game is scheduled for Sept. 12 against Colonial Athletic Association opponent Delaware.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Mike Lowe contributed to this story.

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