ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The entire De Smet Jesuit High School football team lined up in groups of three at the 50-yard-line. The Spartans practiced the technique of wrapping the ball carrier, then ripping the ball free depending on which hand it was in. Three days later, in the final minute of the fourth quarter at Rock Bridge High School, De Smet was on defense and down one.
A forced fumble led to the game-winning touchdown, and the first win for De Smet’s first-year head coach, Rob Steeples.
It’s not only the 26-year-old’s first year at De Smet, but also his first as a coach after his playing career ended last fall.
“I kind of was faced with two options, one was continuing with a fourth NFL season and the other one was coming to De Smet. And De Smet was ‘plan A’ and I think that’s a blessing when you can say that ‘plan B’ was the NFL.”
Steeples spent the last four years in the NFL. He signed with the then St. Louis Rams as an un-drafted free agent in 2013, then spent time in the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys organizations. He was mainly a practice squad cornerback, but did appear in two games with Minnesota in 2013.
Which is something his current players, like junior defensive back/wide receiver, Hunter Schoenig, quickly learned. He said Steeples’ highlight reel and bio were the first things he found about his new coach.
“It’s something else,” Shoenig says. “It actually it helps a lot too. To have a NFL player help you, coaching your position every single day, it’s nice.”
The Spartans are 1-1 in 2016, and Steeples is starting to figure out just what kind of coach he wants to be. He says his weekly preparations in practice mean there are no nerves or yelling on the sidelines Friday night.
“I try to leave no leaf unturned as far as what we do when we go out there,” Steeples says. “I tell my players I made a living off practicing in the NFL. So that’s one thing we focus on. I said ‘I’m going to teach you how to practice day-in and day-out.’”
And he can thank a few of his former coaches at the University of Memphis for drilling that into him. Steeples says he still calls current head coaches Barry Odom of University of Missouri and Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech. Between those two coaches and a lot of friends and former teammates who are now coaching, Steeples says he has a pretty good circle of mentors.
But his primary goal in coaching, is to build relationships between every member of the team.
“He really tries to like really get to know everyone,” Schoenig says. “And he tries to get all the players to get to know all the players because obviously with a big team it’s hard to get to know everyone. But he really tries to focus in on that.”
“You can’t fake caring,” Steeples says. “You’ve really got to care about the guys and our guys really care about each other.”
Next week is De Smet’s first home game of the season, hosting Fort Zumwalt West, and Steeples has a few expectations of his Spartans.
“We definitely are going to honor the game, we are going to treat each and every play like it’s our last. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be a game that’s fun to watch, something that the fans enjoy to watch. We are going to go fast, we are going to score points and we are going to play defense. But like I say, we are just going to play football in it’s purest form.
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