Passion Drives Steve Harrell to Excel for St. Thomas Tommies
Locked in the basement somewhere on the campus of a well-known university, a group of highly educated and brilliant computer geeks have spent the better part of the last three months building the ultimate algorithm to determine one thing – the number of reasons to believe why the St. Thomas Tommies will win the NCAA Division-III Football National Championship. At last count that number was 2,478.
Ok, none of that first paragraph may be true, but what is true is the Tommies are racing at full-speed toward a date in Salem, Virginia where they could very easily be crowned as the nation’s best. With a dominating defense, ranked third in the country, and an even more potent offense, ranked first, this is a team that looks even more formidable than last year’s champions, the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks.
St. Thomas Head Coach Glenn Caruso does as good of a job as anyone in recruiting and developing players to keep his team on top. To see the results, no one needs to look any further than sophomore linebacker Steve Harrell, one of the many reason why the Tommies look like the National Champions.
At 5-11, 203 pounds, Harrell doesn’t look to have the physical stature to be an elite linebacker, but when you stand in close proximity to him you find that those numbers mean nothing. This is a well-constructed young man, with speed and natural instincts that make him one of the best linebackers in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Steve Harrell has always loved the sport. Growing up in a football crazed area like Milwaukee, WI, it was easy to see how he would instantly be attracted to the game.
“Just growing up in football, always being on the TV on Sundays. I’m from Wisconsin so, obviously, I’m a big Green Bay Packers fan. Always watching Brett Favre each Sunday and watching those games got me involved, and I remember in second grade I was going to be able to play tackle football for the first time, and I was really excited about playing for some reason.”
Steve established himself as one of the better players, even when it seemed that he had no reason for succeeding. In the sixth grade he was placed on a sixth through eighth grade team. The size difference between the upper age group and the lower one should have made him completely outclassed and ineffective, but coaches recognized that Harrell had the natural instincts needed to be a true talent in the sport.
At West High School in New Berlin, WI he was a standout performer, but the team itself was not very good, giving Steve a strong desire to play somewhere he had a chance to play for a winning program. He recognized that St. Thomas was clearly going to give him that opportunity.
“The success of the program in football and the school really was a big reason for coming here. I came from a high school where we didn’t have much success on the field, so I was hungry for that experience of having a successful team, and I knew that coming here would give me the opportunity.”
The challenge that Steve faced at St. Thomas is that technique had not really been taught to him. He had great instincts on the field, and so coaches simply let him play. At St. Thomas that was not going to be the case, and he could not have been happier. If he was going to take his game to another level he needed proper instruction and the Tommies coaches were just what the doctor ordered.
“Now I have great coaches who are really helping to step my game up even further as I learn more about actually playing the position.”
What the coaches have been able to accomplish in just one year is absolutely remarkable. In his freshman season, Steve appeared in just one game, making a single tackle, although for a loss. Fast forward to this year where he is the Tommies leading tackler with 70. He is tied for third on the team in sacks with five and has forced a fumble.
Steve was given the opportunity to improve his game and he has excelled in doing so. That he has been so fortunate to have such a chance has not escaped the sophomore. “I love that feeling of doing something that I know that I have been blessed and to be able to take of advantage of an opportunity that not too many people have been blessed with.”
It may be instincts that have made him so successful, but there is another factor that plays nearly as important of a role – his passion. Steve Harrell is a man of deep faith whose play on the field is important to him because he recognizes that God gave him his gifts and talents, and he feels obligated to use them to glorify his Creator.
“Mainly what drives me to play football is my faith and playing for the Lord. It’s knowing that each game I played that I used my body for his glory since he has blessed me in so many ways. I know what I am capable of doing so when I don’t do those things I feel like I am letting Him down.”
In fact, it was his desire to glorify God that played a significant role in his decision to come to St. Thomas. “There is always the opportunity here to glorify the Lord in all I do, whether it be on the field or in the classroom. I want to make sure that I do that to the best of my ability.”
Make no mistake here. One should not mistake desire to glorify God with softness. Steve Harrell is as tough as nails. A guy who loves his time on the field because it allows his other passion to shine forth.
“I love tackling people and I know that is something that is going to be taken away from me. I know I am not going to be able to tackle someone in public and get away with it after the years of football are over. I love inflicting pain in a way that I won’t feel it.”
The sophomore has quickly established that he is a unique talent that is a difference maker in games. The staggering part is that he is just getting started. One can only imagine how much of a force he will be two years from now. There is probably a running back or two cringing at that thought.
What truly makes Steve Harrell a man to admire is that his values are really what his faith is supposed to be about. If one really examines the core values of Christianity, they stand on two principles – love the Lord God and love your neighbor as yourself. The Tommies linebacker clearly seeks to glorify God in all he does, and wants to use his life on the field as a mission to serve. To showcase God’s greatness in the gifts He has bestowed on Steve.
While serving God is imperative to him, he also has an equal passion to serve his teammates and sees that he is just a small piece in a much bigger story.
“It is all about really caring for other people. Being open to that opportunity in your life when you’re realizing that your part of something a lot bigger than yourself. I want people to look at me whether I am in the weight room working out or wherever and know that I carried myself in the right way. That I am working hard, giving it my all no matter what I do. If you don’t do things that way you aren’t doing your job, and you lose the trust of your teammates and the coaching staff.”
There is a lot of reason to trust Steve Harrell. He is a young man excelling on the field for the St. Thomas Tommies and doing so off the field for God. His passion for his team, his school, and his God have made him an elite player in a very short time, and really bodes well for the future of the school’s football program. It also bodes well for the state of Christianity, because if Steve attacks the devil with the same ferocity he does opposing quarterbacks, it won’t be long before Satan is out with a severe concussion. I can hear Satan now, “What hit me?”
By Robert Pannier