When Trent Steelman took the first snap of the 2009 season on Sept. 5 against Eastern Michigan, he’d already managed to accomplish something no West Point freshman had since World War II.
Steelman, who led Army to a touchdown in his first drive, became the first Army “plebe” to start for the Black Knights since 1944. A few months later, he established himself as only the second rookie to start for the Black Knights in 110 years against Navy.
Considering the long and decorated history of the Army program, those stats speak volumes for the new face of the team.
Steelman made history in 2009 and undoutbedly brings optimism to the academy and it’s fans heading into 2010. He replaced Carson Williams, a senior who was the first rookie to ever earn a start against Navy back in 2006. He then went on to start all 12 Army games, a feat that had never been done.
The expectations heading into this fall are, understandably, high for the Bowling Green, Ky. native. He’s fast, has a decent arm, played through pain and nearly led Army to a win over the Mids in December. A solid first season behind him, Steelman entered spring camp a little heavier — added weight he said the team and he wanted to tack on to prepare for the 2010 campaign.
“Precision and comfort”
“The reactions and decisions that go along with that position are all so much more intuitive for him,” Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. “He still has some challenges, and he is still not what he is going to be. You knew [the improvement] would happen, but it’s still reassuring to see that did, in fact, take place – that giant step forward in precision and comfort and awareness.”
“He is much more comfortable in a leadership role, much more comfortable running the offense.”
-Army head coach Rich Ellerson
Ellerson’s faith and attachment to Steelman is, arguably, what kept him behind center for a dozen starts last fall. Indeed, Steelman finished the season as Army’s leading rusher, taking in 855 yards, five touchdowns and five victories to his credit. While the 6-foot, 185-lbs sophomore-to-be will be without his top receiver (Alejandro Villanueva), he’ll have a solid rushing offense to rely on in 2010, with No. 2 rusher Pat Mealy (689 yards, three TDs) and newcomer Jared Hassin complimenting the speedy Jameson Carter (272 yards, 2 TDs).
“We can expect that improvement to happen again – it won’t be as dramatic or as pronounced as it was from the fall to the spring – but we will see that again between now and August, and in every subsequent year,” Ellerson said of Steelman’s development. “There is still a lot of growth that can take place there, but I’m really pleased with where we are.”
Steelman indicated he’s feeling more comfortable now, a year of the grind behind him.
“Things went good,” he said of the spring practice schedule. “As an offense, things are a lot more fluid out there. Just being able to get a lot of reps during spring ball is really bringing us together. It’s like second nature. We’ve done this now for a full season.”
Interesting notes on Steelman, besides having a great name for a football player — he was a football and baseball star in high school, accounting for both 82 touchdowns and earning all-district baseball honors three times… his father lettered in football at Appalachian State University while his uncle served in the Army and his grandfather in the Air Force… he delivered a late win over VMI on his 20th birthday on Nov. 14, 2009 at Michie.
My buddy Chet Gordon filmed a quick interview with Steelman for the Times Herald-Record following the Black/Gold scrimmage, a little clip I found via theunbalancedline.com, who’s been nice enough to steer some readers my way lately.
With all those touchdowns in high school, and limited but legit success throwing in 2009, I’d personally hope Ellerson gives Steelman the green light a little more often next fall when it comes to passing plays. What do you think?