Hazleton Area’s Adrian Otero proved to be an outstanding runner and receiver throughout his high school football career.
But his real passion was on the other side of the ball, and that’s where he’ll play in college.
Otero signed Wednesday with the University of Maine where he’ll be a linebacker — another position where he excelled for the Cougars.
Otero was one of five high schoolers to sign with Maine during the early signing period. He was also recruited by Villanova and Stony Brook.
“They were one of the first colleges that came to see me,” Otero said of Maine. “They’ve been with me throughout the whole process.”
What college programs saw was a powerful running back who developed into an outstanding receiver. Otero spent more time split out this past season than in the backfield and finished with 35 receptions — a personal best.
But Wyoming Valley Conference coaches raved more about Otero’s ability as a linebacker. He finished the season with 124 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and a sack. He also had a fumble recovery and blocked a field goal.
Otero is perfectly fine with giving up the offensive part of football.
“Defense, because I like to hit people,” said the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder. “Also, I control the defense when I play in the middle.”
Otero saw playing time at the varsity level as a freshman at outside linebacker. He moved inside as a sophomore and became a fixture there. He earned Class 6A All-State honors as a senior and was named to the Times Leader All-WVC first team as a linebacker this past season.
A big accomplishment was Otero will be leaving the Hazleton Area program in better shape than when he entered it. The Cougars finished 7-5, posting their first winning season since 2009. The team played for the District 2 Class 6A championship.
“Everyone had their doubts we’d have a winning season,” Otero said, “but we came out with it.”
Otero will be joining a Maine program that plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, formerly known as Division I-AA. The Black Bears finished 4-6 this past season, but two losses were by one point.