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Texas Tech Student-Athlete Spotlight: Eric Stephens
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By Jeremiah Washington
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

Setting a career record as a 19-year-old sophomore illustrates why Eric Stephens has been an exceptional performer in his time at Texas Tech.

Stephens became Texas Tech's career leader in kickoff return yardage leader against Baylor at the Cotton Bowl in October. He reached 1,419 career yards during the Red Raiders' 45-38 shootout victory.

He surpassed a record that had been established over four decades ago by a College Football Hall of Famers. Donny Anderson totaled 1,309 yards when he played for the Red Raiders from 1963-1965.

Stephens says he's not satisfied ... and for kickoff returner, it's fine to be greedy.

"It feels good to have had the opportunity to set it high," he said. "I'm going to be around for a while, so hopefully I can set it higher."

Stephens continued to rewrite the school record book at Colorado when he passed Anderson. Late in the first quarter, Stephens picked up his 57th career return, one more than Anderson's previous number.

After playing as a true freshman in 2009, Stephens is experiencing more playing time at running back. At Timberview High School in Mansfield, Texas, he gained over 1,000 yards rushing in three-consecutive seasons - including 1,906 as a junior.

So far this season, Stephens has rushed for 397 yards and three touchdowns as first-year coach Tommy Tuberville has increased the offense's emphasis on the running game.

"It's been a blessing," Stephens said. "It feels good to be doing it again and get a feel for it. It feels natural and I'm confident with it. In the last game I was two yards shy for rushing over 100 yards."

In Tech's last two games, Stephens has come close to reaching the 100-yard mark as he finished with 99 yards against Oklahoma State and 98 yards against Colorado.

Seeing his impact the last two weeks, Texas Tech running backs coach Chad Scott is impressed with Stephens's impact and versatility for the Red Raiders.

"I think he has a great impact on the team," Scott said. "He is very versatile and he can do a lot of things. I really believe he is one of the top guys in the country."

Stephens has already set two records for Tech at such a young age, but he said has even bigger goals he would like to see come to light.

"I want to be one of the few to rush over 1,000 to 2,000 yards," said Stephens. "I definitely want to go to the NFL after college, and maybe even become a head coach in high school and win a couple of state titles."

Although Stephens has big dreams for the future, his current focus is on the Red Raiders. Tech has a 4-3 overall record and is 2-3 in Big 12 play.

Stephens is eager to show fans that the football team is better than what their record shows and is confident that the Red Raiders are going to be resilient.

"I want to do whatever it takes to win," said Stephens. "I think we have to come out and execute faster. In the Big 12 you can't let the other team get ahead and play catch up. I know we are better than what we have shown."

One person ready to give their critique after Stephens takes the field happens to be his biggest critic, his mother, Tonia Cleaver.

"I'm a mama's boy," Stephens said with a smile.

Stephens recalls the critique his mother gave of his performance against Oklahoma State. Stephens had a fumble during the game but also led the Red Raiders in rushing yards.

"It's funny because she told me I played horrible," Stephens said with a laugh. "I guess because of the fumble. She is my biggest critic, but she is also my biggest support and my biggest fan."

Even record-setting student- athletes have to listen to mom's advice.

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