Chesapeake football coach Tom Kraning says his star running back is so unpretentious, "he reminds me of Wally from the 'Leave It to Beaver' show."
"He's kind of the Wally Cleaver of Pasadena," he says, knowing that opposing tacklers don't find junior Brandon Steinheim quite so harmless.
Certainly not Severna Park, which allowed Steinheim 121 yards rushing on only 11 carries last month. Or Glen Burnie, victimized by his95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the previous week.
Both ofthose games, and an earlier meeting at Old Mill, ended in Chesapeakelosses, pushing one of the county's most productive players deeper into the background.
When asked if his team's poor record -- the Cougars are 1-4 after Friday night's 34-7 loss at Meade -- is keeping Steinheim from receiving his due, Kraning says, "Absolutely."
"We're not a winning team," he says, "but the little success we've had on the field has been attributed mainly to Brandon."
Steinheim entered Friday's game with 320 yards on 48 carries (6.7 average). He accounted for five of Chesapeake's eight touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter against Severna Park on runs of 28 and 40 yards.
He got off to a slow start Friday -- as did all the Cougars -- but finished with 100 yards on 10 carries. He also had three catches for 55 yards, returned a kickoff 33 yards, recovered a fumble and broke up a Meade two-point conversion pass.
All in all, a typical night for Steinheim.
"He's by far our most intense player," Kraning says. "He does everything you ask, no questions. He's a football player. He wasmade for the football field."
Even when the other team has the ball, though Kraning tries to keep him on the sidelines except in obvious passing and goal-line situations.
"He's one of our hardest hitters on defense, but we're trying not to wear him out," he says.
"It's one of those things where it's not easy to rest a player of his caliber. We're not overloaded with talent, so when you get a quality player like Brandon, you have to showcase him."
Steinheim, who rushed for 790 yards last season, doesn't mind the work or the anonymity,saying, "People look at Chesapeake and say, 'Oh, they have nothing.'Then they look at the backs at Old Mill and Severna Park and think of them as awesome players. But I think that's good. It helps me on the field."
So does his tremendous leg strength. Though only 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, he can box squat 807 pounds five times.
Known more as a shifty runner than an overpowering one, he still can be an intimidating presence on the football field.
"When he comes out of the backfield during practice, and I'll be in a certain position watching the play develop, when he comes in your direction you feel like you're in for a hell of an impact," Kraning says. "But he'll get threeor four feet from you and he's gone. He makes a sharp cut and he's gone."
"I'm not overpowering," Steinheim says, "but if it's a one-on-one tackle, there's no way the guy gets me."
Kraning calls him a"slippery" runner who picks up a lot of his yardage after the initial block. "It's hard to get a handle on him," he says.
This style makes Steinheim less prone to injury, but a depleted offensive line might not. Six players were hurt for the Meade game, giving Chesapeake what Kraning called "a mix and match offensive line."
"You put a kid like Brandon behind the Old Mill line and you'd have something to light up the county," Kraning says.
Steinheim would rather light up the Cougars' side of the scoreboard. "My only goals this year were to rush for over 1,000 yards and for the team to have a .500 record or better," he says.
"I think both have good possibilities."