February 8, 2005

Steele gets it done for Seminoles

Make no mistake, recruiting is not for the faint of heart.

In addition to being dedicated to his fellow coaches, players and school, a college football coach has to have the desire and drive required to be successful on the recruiting trail, and success in the recruiting game is accompanied by long hours, high pressure and plenty of failure.

Florida State linebackers coach Kevin Steele has been through the recruiting wars at various stops for nearly 20 years, and in that time he's carved out a reputation as one of the best in the business.

"You have to enjoy (recruiting) first. If you don't enjoy it, you've got a problem," said Steele, when asked about his recruiting prowess. "I love it. I enjoy the whole process of locating players and then selectively, as a staff, recruiting players."

For those who questioned whether or not Steele was among the elite recruiters in the nation, a look at what he and his FSU colleagues accomplished this year will remove all doubts.

Led by Steele's efforts, the Seminoles landed five Rivals100 players - Fred Rouse, Jamie Robinson, Antone Smith, Derek Nicholson and Eugene Hayes - in a 24-hour span that ended last week on signing day.

Steele, who joined FSU's staff in January of 2003 after a four-year stint as the head coach at Baylor, was the lead recruiter for Rouse, Nicholson and Robinson. He also was credited by sources close to the Seminoles for his work in helping close the deal with Hayes and Smith, whose decision to pick Florida State as his college destination was one of the major surprises of the recruiting season.

When all was said and done, Steele had helped the 'Noles come from well off the pace to land the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, and for his efforts with the class of 2005, Steele has been named the Rivals.com 2005 National Recruiter of the Year.

"We had some big names that we got late that we feel will bring a lot of excitement to our program," said Steele, who then joked, "We probably would have liked it to be wrapped up a little quicker, but as Coach (Bobby) Bowden says, when you recruit the best, sometimes you have to wait."

Steele edged out Oklahoma's Darrell Wyatt, Nebraska's John Blake, Tennessee's Trooper Taylor, USC's Lane Kiffin, Iowa's Lester Erb and Cal's Ron Gould for this year's award. Ed Orgeron, the former USC defensive coordinator who was named the head coach at Ole Miss in December, was the 2004 recipient.

Florida State has earned a reputation through the years for being strong at the finish line when it comes to recruiting. But this year, as signing day approached, things were even a little wilder than normal for the Seminoles.

Steele said for nearly nine hours on signing day coaches at the FSU football offices were pacing up and down the hallway passing their cell phones back and forth as they talked to their top uncommitted targets.

"At one point I realized that I didn't have my phone anymore, and I wasn't sure who had it," Steele said with a laugh. "I don't know how many calls came into the office that day."

While Steele has only been with Florida State for a little more than two years, he has established himself as the program's top recruiter, building his impressive reputation by taking advantage of an engaging personality, a straightforward approach and hard work.

"Kevin (Steele) does an outstanding job and is certainly deserving of the honor," Bowden said. "It should be flattering to the whole staff if one of them is singled out as being among the best recruiters. Recruiting is definitely a team effort here, and all of our coaches contributed to the overall success of the class."

Steele also was quick to credit the entire staff and said that this year's class was particularly exciting because of the individuals involved.

"This group, they're a high-energy group and really great kids," said Steele, who played for Johnny Majors at Tennessee in the late 1970s. "It was fun to recruit this group."

Steele's coaching success, recruiting included, has made him a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. Other schools are likely to come calling in the future, and Steele, who previously spent four years as an assistant for the Carolina Panthers, has already turned down overtures, as well as more money, from more than one NFL team.

"I've been fortunate in that I've had some opportunities," he said.

But despite the interest in his services, Steele maintains that he's quite happy in his present situation, which has to be music to the ears of Seminoles fans everywhere.

Steele also said that he and his fellow assistants have some goals that they plan to accomplish in the coming years.

"Really, what I'm doing right now is enjoying working for Florida State," Steele said. "We're trying to bring national championships to Florida State in what's the eve of Coach Bowden's career. We think he deserves that and we want to give that to him."

Rivals.com Top 25 recruiters for 2005



 

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