By Joe Scalzo
Maybe it was when Stephen Page started joking about his improving facial hair (“It’s no Andrew Sinko beard from last year, but I’m trying”). Or how he uses the beard to distract from his thinning head hair (“I’m trying to compensate, I guess”). Or maybe it was when he explained why it’s so difficult to block his 6-foot, 300-pound, fire hydrant-shaped teammate, Octavius Brown (“He’s a certified midget”).
Whenever it was, one thing became clear following Saturday’s scrimmage: After being buried on the depth chart the past four years, Page is ready to seize Youngstown State’s “funniest offensive lineman” role.
There was furious competition for the title in Eric Wolford’s first two years, with guard Zach Larson (who could do spot-on imitations of half of Wolford’s coaching staff) vying against tackle Andrew Radakovich (who went by the nickname “The Serbian Silverback” on Twitter and once said he sleeps well before road games because he cuddles with then-roommate Lamar Mady).
Radakovich held the title by himself in 2012, then passed the torch to tackle Kyle Bryant last season. (Although no one on last year’s team could compete with offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, who calls his players “Fat-letes” and once said all-conference lineman Chris Elkins was going to be a man-child when he hits puberty).
Page, meanwhile, has been stuck behind Utah mountain man Mark Pratt (2011-12) and current Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Elkins (2013) on the real depth chart, hampering his ability to perform in front of reporters.
But on Saturday, he proved he was ready.
For instance, when asked which of YSU’s quarterbacks is best under center, Page said, “Everyone has a different feel. Dante is a little more experienced, so he knows how to get up in there.”
He paused, cracked up and said, “Maybe don’t print that.”
On which teammate is the most whipped by his girlfriend, Page said, “He’s going to hate this from me, but Dylan Colucci. We give him a hard time but it’s all in fun.”
On which teammate is the best singer: “Eric Myers. He’s just always singing. You never see him not singing.”
What does he sing?
“Love ballads,” Page said. “He loves ballads. He loves them.”
Really? Like Celine Dion?
“He was singing that earlier,” Page said, cracking up. “He was.”
A Newton Falls High graduate, Page (6-4, 295) is one of just three recruits remaining from Wolford’s initial class in 2010. (Safety Donald D’Alesio and tight end Nate Adams are the others.) Page played in three games in 2011, six games in 2012 (starting for an injured Pratt against Southern Illinois) and played in six games last season.
Now he’s projected to start at center, where’s he not just the only senior starter on that unit. He’s the only senior lineman, period.
“We’re still pretty young, so my job as a senior leader is to make sure everyone knows their assignment,” he said. “The main thing is getting everyone on the same page.”
Get it? Same page?
“Headline,” Page said, laughing.
Page doesn’t claim to be the team’s funniest player — he gives the nod to either WR Christian Bryan or RB Demond Hymes — but nobody is better at handling a funny question.
He can handle a serious one, too, but when asked who should be YSU’s starting quarterback, Page cracked up and said, “No comment.”
Turns out, he’s smart too.