By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Todd Steussie stepped out of his purple jersey, out of the Twin Cities and out of professional football. And he stepped into the world of MSU-Northern football. But for only four days.
Steussie, a two-time all-pro offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, stepped out of the professional arena and into the role of coach and mentor earlier this week at Northerns football camp.
This is a nice coachable-size camp, Steussie said in a recent interview.
Fate didnt bring Steussie to Havre, but his younger brother Mike, assistant Light coach, did.
I came to see where he was living, where he was coaching, Steussie said. We felt it was a great way to kick off the camp, hopefully get a little bigger draw, he added, chewing on a green apple, bubble gum sucker.
Light football coaches hoped the lure of a professional athlete would make for higher numbers at a camp for a football program that has been nonexistent since the early 70s.
Im telling the kids the same stuff as the rest of the coaches. Our main goal is the draw, getting the kids in here, he said. I wouldnt say Im bringing in more than the other coaches.
However, Steussies modesty doesnt feign the fact that Northern was exposed to upcoming athletes.
The football camp had a twofold nature; athletes had a chance to see some college-style ball and coaches had a chance to see some young athletes. And these blossoming relationships helped in recruiting for college, Steussie said.
It starts them all off at a better note, he said. Coaches get to see early talent, maybe theres a diamond-in-the-rough now, but hell turn out to be an athlete. They see every talent.
Steussie said a camp of this caliber keeps kids in focus. It keeps them on the straight and narrow in the summer, he joked. But seriously, athletes come into camps looking to improve and looking to get better, he said.
However, more than talent was obtained at the camp. An opportunity was offered for athletes to bond with teammates, to learn what it takes to compete on the next level of play and to exert more dedication and more effort at the next level, Steussie said.
The ones who are willing to work, to get what they want, they will put in more time in the weight room, watching film, those types of things, he said about being a successful football player.
Its their work ethic that matters. Some are tremendously talented, but at every level youve got to work hard.
Steussie hoped the kids would have a good enough experience to want to come back next year.
We want more kids, we want to expand, he said. Hopefully they carry over from the camp into the fall that football is fun, that it makes you a better person and a better football player.
Becoming a better football player was obvious in Landen Grant, the tight end/defensive end who wears the No. 83 jersey for Havre High School, since he stood out in Steussies mind.
Hes a real coachable kid. You tell him something and hell do it. The next play, its done, he said about the Blue Pony senior.
Some kids pick it up quicker than others, Steussie commented about the progress of the camp. But its neat when you can see you touched a kid and he responded to it and did it better.
Although Steussie came into the camp wide open with little expectations, he was impressed with the activity of the kids.
There was no stand-around time, the kids were always moving, he said. The kids listen and its a good atmosphere for learning. This is good exposure for the program and the community support for the kids and for football is great. Its a good organization that will do nothing but go up, Steussie said.
Laughing, he remarked about the campers response to him being a professional football player.
One kid asked for Randy Moss autograph. I told him, I dont think I can do that for you.
But Steussie will be playing with Moss soon enough, leaving Havre, donning his No. 73 purple jersey and re-entering the realm of professional football.