Remodeled Steeple answers coaches' prayers at Morgan

September 26, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The first time Morgan State coach Ricky Diggs and his assistants spotted Matt Steeple, they saw a young man who obviously enjoyed his mother's cooking.

That was 18 months ago, during Diggs' first days on the job. In Steeple, he saw a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle. Diggs wants his linemen to blitz, meaning Steeple had to get trimmer and quicker.

"Watching him in his stance on film from the year before," said assistant head coach L. C. Cole, "Steeple was so heavy he was leaning. That made him vulnerable to getting trapped."

Diggs got what he wanted. Steeple, now a junior, is Morgan's best defensive lineman. In last week's loss to North Carolina A&T, he was paid the ultimate compliment by the offense -- getting double-teamed most of the afternoon.

Leaner but hardly scrawny, Steeple is playing at 265 as Morgan prepares for Johnson C. Smith today at 1:30 p.m., the Bears' only home game during the first five weeks of the season.

Steeple went from Northern High to Morgan for several reasons, including proximity to home and the fact the Bears were rebuilding.

The proximity to home, however, left Steeple vulnerable to his mother's cooking.

"When I was a freshman, she'd fill the refrigerator," Steeple said. "Turkey, chicken, ham, whole milk. At Thanksgiving, she brought dinner to the dorm for my teammates who were from out-of-state."

Once Diggs and Cole burned the 260-weight figure in Steeple's mind, his eating habits changed. There were salads, fruit and skim milk.

Conditioning came next. None of the linemen completed through the 1 1/2 -mile run in August 1991 in under 14 minutes. It took Steeple 19. Not so, this year.

"In the 1 1/2 -mile run this August, all but one of the linemen made it in under 14 minutes," Cole said. "Matt did it in 12:36."

Loss of weight was only part of Steeple's transformation. Despite his lack of quickness, endurance and technique, he became a starter early in his freshman year by relying on brute strength. When Diggs arrived the following spring, he sensed that Steeple thought he was hot stuff.

"People blew him up to be this and that, so he thought he was ready for the NFL," Diggs said. "It was the way he carried himself. He felt we wouldn't be as hard on him because he was such a talent. In fact, we were harder on him because he was a talent.

"We made him realize that it took other things besides strength, like technique and learning assignments in our structured defense."

Steeple recalls the challenge from the coaches: We hear you're good, but we haven't seen it. Show us.

Matt Steeple is showing them now.

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