Stephenson received honors last week as the most improved scholar athlete during the football end of year banquet.
"I was shocked because I didn't even know I could get it," Stephenon said. "But my academic supervisor gave me a hint. She said that I should look good for the awards. I didn't get it until I was up there. It felt really good getting that award. [David] Milewski got two more, so it was a Sayreville pride night."
Stephenson said he received the award for improving his GPA, and spending long hours in the academic support rooms at the Hale Center.
"It was crazy," he said. "I spent a ton of hours in study hall just going over all of my notes and studying. I looked at slides over and over again. Now I have to help [brother Delon Stephenson] get it next year."
Stephenson said he has always worked hard when it comes to the classroom, but the change from high school to college coursework was an adjustment.
"It's always good to show what you're able to do off the field," Stephenson said. "High schools kids don't understand how good you have to be academically to be allowed to play college football. I used to be like that, but I learned."
Final exams are finished for Stephenson and the rest of the Scarlet Knights, which has him turning his full attention to Notre Dame.
"I'm really excited because we're playing a good team," Stephenson said. "They're one of the tops in the nation all around. …It's a good offensive line. It's the best one we'll play this season. I'll be happy to go against them. They just play aggressive. They all finish their blocks."
Stephenson added that the developmental periods in the first week of bowl practices stood out to him as important.
"This week really helped me a lot," Stephenson said. "I'm getting my hands better. Coach [Jim] Panagos yells a lot, but he just wants you to feel motivated to practice. He wants to get you better. I'm excited about next year, but I'm focused on this bowl game first."
Rutgers spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in Manhattan at the team hotel. The team will maintain its normal practice schedule, bussing to Rutgers for a Christmas afternoon practice.
"It's really good because when you think about New York, you think about Rutgers," Stephenson said. "Everybody's going to be there. I heard it's almost sold out too, so it's going to be a good environment out there."