|Dover native Steve Hepburn, described by his coach at Boston College as the ''hardest worker on the team,'' last season was part of a defensive unit that allowed 0.75 goals and just over 10 shots per game, helping the Eagles post a 15-5-1 record. (Boston College/File)|
Hepburn brings grit to BC
Dover native matures into key contributor
Steve Hepburn wasn't the typical Atlantic Coast Conference soccer recruit. Four years ago, the Dover native was hardly considered Division 1 material.
A number of his Boston College teammates had chosen the Eagles over other top programs from the ACC, Big East, and Atlantic 10. The short list for the 2005 Roxbury Latin grad consisted of schools such as Emory College, New York University, and Skidmore College.
Leave it up to BC's longtime head coach and a family friend, Ed Kelly, to extend an offer. The two met while Hepburn was playing with Kelly's son, Luke, as a 10-year-old on the Holliston-based New England Eagles club. While there was no scholarship money for Hepburn, Kelly told him there'd be a spot for him if he chose to enroll at the Heights.
"I wasn't expected to come in and do something huge," Hepburn said. "But if I worked hard and developed, I'd earn some time. He kind of pushed me. It's worked out well for us."
Apparently. Be it his low profile or subtle style, Hepburn went a bit under the radar on the recruiting scene. But headed into his senior year at BC, with the first practice for the fall on Monday, Hepburn has earned his keep.
Considered by Kelly as the "hardest worker on the team," Hepburn routinely finishes in the top two when it's time for preseason fitness drills. He has also proved to be one of the team's most versatile weapons, having played every position aside from goalkeeper.
After making 13 starts at midfield in 2006, his sophomore campaign, he made his biggest impact on the defensive end last season. He started every game at fullback and was part of a defensive unit that allowed 0.75 goals per game, second-best in the ACC, and just over 10 shots per game.
The result was a significant leap in the win column. BC put together a 15-5-1 record and won the conference tournament, after winning eight games in 2006. The Eagles also qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, although they lost to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the first round.
It's easy to overlook Hepburn, though, and not just because he plays a thankless position. The 6-foot, 155-pound defender has stuck to a straightforward approach, skipping the ball up to midfielders and letting them distribute.
"I don't like to lose," he said. "I know I don't have quite the talent of players who can be flashy, but I can make up for it by working hard. I'm a hustle player."
Hepburn also has some "big knees," as Kelly playfully pointed out.
"He looks like he hasn't grown into his body yet," Kelly said. "But nobody gets past him. It's a funny thing."
In each of the last two seasons, Hepburn was voted the team's Most Improved Player. But he considers his academic achievements just as important.
Most notably, the management major was the college's Junior Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and is a two-time ACC All-Academic. He estimated his grade-point average as a shade under 3.5.
And for the first time, Hepburn spent the spring on another continent, studying in Sydney. He didn't set foot in a gym, instead taking to a classic workout regimen - long runs on the beach mixed with push-ups, crunches, dips, and chin-ups.
So it wasn't a complete vacation. After all, he has some work to finish, after some unexpected success.