From his playing days at the University of Tennessee to a coaching career that has seen him coach with some of the best in college football and in the NFL, he has always held out hope that his career would one day take him back to the Palmetto State.
"I wake up every morning fairly comfortable regardless of where I'm at,
but this is a great place to be. It truly is," he said.
Steele grew up in Dillon as the son of a teacher and principal that is
well thought of in the state. Pete Steele, who passed away last summer,
was an educator and football coach before becoming a principal, where he
was well thought of and liked across the state.
"You walk in places here, and there is not a school building or
educational meeting that I have walked into in this state where it wasn't
‘you're Jeff's brother, you're Dale's brother or you're Pete's son.' I
mean so many people know the name," Kevin Steele said. "You run into
guidance councilors, principals, assistant principals, teachers and
coaches that know who you are because of your family."
And now that he is working, recruiting and coaching for Clemson, it makes
it even better.
As he meets alumni or just the casual fan in the street,
he always gets the feeling that Clemson isn't just a town or school as
much as it is an identity for those associated with it.
"I have worked at Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida State and Alabama," Steele
said. "There is a passion at those institutions and when people speak at
those institutions they speak of it as the greatest place ever. When
Clemson people talk about Clemson, however, they talk about it like it is
"I'm waiting to meet this person because it is a relationship that goes
beyond just an educational institution. It is a great place."
And those kinds of feelings motivate Steele to do all he can to help bring
back a championship to a program that has been starved for one since 1991.
Steele's philosophy is that of an attacking style defense, which will
include different elements he has picked up in all of his stops on his way
back to South Carolina. Stops that include Tennessee, Oklahoma State,
Nebraska, the Carolina Panthers, Florida State and then of course Alabama.
But no matter what scheme he throws at opposing offensives, whether it is
a zone blitz scheme he picked up from his good friend Dom Capers in the
NFL or maybe it's a coverage scheme Nick Saban passed on to him at
Alabama. Steele's primary philosophy is elementary.
"The primary objective is to get the ball back. That's our job," he said.
"It doesn't matter if we are called upon to do it with four yards to the
goal line or 84 yards to the goal line. Get the ball back and get it back
as quick as you can.
"That's the primary objective. How to do that? There are a lot of
Ways he has picked up in both college and in the NFL. Ways that have
helped him make it back to South Carolina.
"That makes it feel more at home," Steele said.
Right at home
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