Into the spotlight
Five years ago, Kyle Steffes was part of the North Dakota State football team's practice squad. Today, he's embracing his role as one of the Bison's most seasoned veterans - and he's loving it.
"Just being a senior, trying to take more of a leadership role this year," Steffes said. "Taking the younger guys under my wing and showing them the ropes of being a Bison football player."
The former Dickinson Trinity standout is an ideal role model for younger players on the Bison roster. He's stayed relatively constant throughout his career. He's seventh on NDSU's career rushing charts and could easily make a play for the second spot on that list with another 1,000-yard season.
Lamar Gordon, who starred for the Bison from 1998-2001, is atop the chart with 4,700 career yards. Steffes currently has 2,702 yards, which is only 968 shy of Jake Morris, NDSU's productive running back in the mid-1990s.
Put aside the numbers for a moment though and one sees that over the past three seasons, Steffes has also made a name for himself as one of the Bison's hardest-working players.
"There's a maturity, a respect," NDSU coach Craig Bohl said. "You have a guy who's worked extremely hard. Beyond that, people recognize that he's a good player."
However, Steffes enters his senior season with the Bison facing their toughest schedule in school history.
The Bison visit I-A opponent Ball State on Sept. 23, travel to Stephen F. Austin the next Saturday and close out a three-game road trip at I-AA perennial power Georgia Southern the following week.
Then, it's a homecoming game against Mississippi Valley State, followed by a visit to the Metrodome and a nationally-televised shot at the Minnesota Gophers on Oct. 21.
Steffes isn't worred about the demanding schedule though.
"We're taking this as a challenge," Steffes said. "Just with the attitude and the personality of the team, I think we're going to respond to the challenge real well."
Bohl said Steffes is ready to play the strong schedule because he's become accustomed to playing in big games.
"He's played an awful lot of football in big games the last several years," Bohl said. "You look to a guy who has experience and ability and you certainly have it there."
Steffes' first big-time performance came in the first game of his redshirt freshman season when he had 23 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown in NDSU's 25-24 upset victory at Montana.
Since then he's had numerous big games:
* He rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in NDSU's first NCAA I-AA game against Valparaiso, a 52-0 victory, to open his sophomore season.
* Carried for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win against Weber State of the Big Sky Conference near the end of his sophomore season.
* Rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown in a 41-0 win over Weber State early in his junior season.
* Had 141 yards rushing and three touchdowns in 41-17 victory over South Dakota State in Dakota Marker Game, his sixth 100-yard game of the season and 12th of his career.
Entering his final season, Steffes has decided to pass on some of his knowledge and experiences to another former Trinity star, Landon Smith.
Smith helped Trinity win the Class 2A state championship last season, but will more than likely keep his redshirt tag this year.
"I'm helping him out," Steffes said. "Telling him the roles of being a freshman. What you have to get through, what you have to do and what not to do."