Football- A Stephens Family Tradition
For as long as I can remember football has played an integral part of my life. As a kid, I dreamed of being just like my father playing football in the NFL. While other kids wanted to be Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, or Lawrence Taylor when we played street football I was my dad.
The Stephens Family has a rich football tradition spanning three generations. I am proud to say that just about every male in my immediate family that went to college as a scholarship football Player. Starting with my father Steve Stephens Sr. He was an All Big 8 Tight End at Oklahoma State University. My uncle Fred was a Freshman All-American Nose Tackle at Arizona. They passed on the skills to my brother and I. My brother Mike was a small school All-American Tight End at Stillman College in Alabama. I played Linebacker and Defensive End at Langston University in Oklahoma and my cousins Corey and Shannon played Cornerback and Safety at St. Augustine’s University in North Carolina and Florida A&M University. Now my nephew D.J. is playing Wide Receiver at Morgan State University here in Baltimore and my younger cousins (Jackie and Ari) continue the tradition of pursuing their football dreams.
After I graduated from college and moved to Baltimore a close friend fought hard to convince me that coaching should be my next evolution, and I loved it! Providing instruction to kids on how to play the game I love the best way I know how is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever known.
My Time Coaching
During my coaching experiences, I had the pleasure of coaching for USA football when they implemented the Heads Up tackling model for youth football. In partnership with NFL franchises across the country, USA football taught coaches the correct way to teach proper tackling to kids. No longer leading with the crown of your head to hit an opponent but placing your helmet square in the numbers, bringing your arms to wrap up and then taking the player to the ground.
I admit being from the era when we led with our heads at first I found the new method to be ¨Soft¨ but as I started researching the issues of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy commonly called CTE a form brain trauma caused by blunt force to the head (concussions). I realized that if I ever wanted my sons to play football that this would be the best method for their safety.
Shortly after I fully embraced it and have been teaching to kids every since. The bottom line is that with time comes wisdom, in the 1950s football players wore leather helmets, now we laugh at that, why? Because we know better because with time comes development; development of technology, development of resources, development of training.
New Generation of Football Fan/Players
When I moved to Baltimore my nephew Jailen was 2 years old, I never thought that I would play such an integral part in his life and that football would be a connector for our relationship for years to come. Anybody that knows me, knows I love all things Oklahoma. In Oklahoma football is King, it’s all most kids dream about. So when I came to Baltimore a 23-year-old kid football was still a priority and the Langston Lions, Oklahoma State Cowboys, and Tulsa Golden Hurricane had my attention, but the University of Oklahoma Sooners were the team I checked for as a fan the most.
I played at LU and Langston was always #1 in my heart, but being a small school the only way I could watch my Lions was to be home in Oklahoma. Enter O.U., Oklahoma’s flagship football franchise and one of the most storied college football programs in the country. I came to Baltimore representing O.U. and nephew came right in. All his friends loved the Terps, Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, and here he is an east coast kid from Baltimore loving the southwestern Sooners.
I was his first coach, I taught him his stance, his cadence, along with how to command a huddle. Football keeps him at my house on fall and winter weekends watching games, and in the spring and summer watching film. He is now a freshman in high school ready to take on the adventure of being a full fledged student athlete and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Thanks to SheSpeaks and Riddell for sponsoring this conversation on my family’s connection to football and giving me the opportunity to share about the Riddell #SmarterFootball program. Riddell is pledging up to $100,000 in equipment grants to select football programs in need of upgraded gear. Multiple grants will be awarded to several deserving programs that best demonstrate how the new product will strengthen their team’s commitment to smarter football. Entries will be accepted from August 1 through August 31, 2017, with the winners announced during the 2017 football season.
How To Apply:
Fans, administrators, coaches, parents, and players can submit their teams via the website at Riddell.com/SmarterFootball through August 31, 2017. To apply, fill out the form to share the details of the football program you are applying for, including the state of their equipment, and how your program practices Smarter Football.
What is Smarter Football:
It’s clear that the game of football is no longer about being the fastest or strongest on the field; it’s about being the smartest, on and off the field. The game is relying more on science and technology to help evolve players into elite athletes with the implementation of sensor, cooling/heating, and grip technologies. Smarter Football can embody many forms including:
- Safe tackling
- Proper nutrition
- Excellent sportsmanship
- Maintaining good grades
How Riddell is Committed to Smarter Football
At Riddell, Smarter Football manifests itself in the way the brand integrates engineering expertise with new data and cutting-edge materials to develop protective equipment. Over the years, Riddell has:
- Collected over 10 years of head impact data and research with biomarkers through a partnership with TGen and the University of Arizona
- Developed and introduced the first flexible football helmet with the Riddell SpeedFlex in 2014
- Launched Riddell’s InSite Impact Response System, which helps thousands of football programs improve their playing techniques and acts as an extra set of eyes for coaches and training staff
- Launched Precision-Fit, a process that utilizes 3D scanning techniques to build a completely custom-fitting helmet for the individual player.
I was happy to learn about the Riddell #SmarterFootball program, I’ve been sharing it with all my coaching friends. Working in low-income neighborhoods I know quite a few programs that could benefit from the grant. If you know any programs that could benefit from the #SmarterFootball grant be sure to share and make sure they apply before August 31st, 2017.
Share Your Thoughts
I have had a love affair with football since I was 8 years old. The game has taught me discipline, leadership, and structure among many other things. What sport do you love? Whichever sport it is you I bet you can map out your lifeline to it. I know I can with football.