The start of USC's 2002 campaign is only a few months away and
when the Trojans take the field against the Auburn Tigers, Number 71 stands a
very good chance to be in the starting lineup - a very good chance.
The journey Nate's taken to get to this point must feel to him like it's
taken forever. His first two years of high school were spent in Costa Mesa.
There, the school didn't have an organized football system for the
underclassmen, so they were taught the art of football by off duty cops
generous enough to donate their free-time to the kids. Nate's family, who
had already moved around enough to put their two sons into a perpetual state
of homesickness, was about to do it again. His father Cary, a man who never
quit hustling to give his boys the best, got a better job. And although the
move wasn't far, it meant another school, a new group of friends and...
starting over. What Nate couldn't know was that this final move would be the
set the course for the next six years of his young life.
Esperanza High had football coaches that new the game. Nate was beginning
his junior year, growing like a weed and ready to learn. It was a match made
in Heaven. They put him on the defensive line, at tackle and he was doing
well. By the end of his first year a few people took notice. There was the
occasional college recruiter who stopped by, but always for someone else - or
so it seemed.
That's when it happened - he grew. The teenage boy who came with all the
markings of a kid who could put on size, did. Entering into his senior year,
Number 71 was now the size of a man, a very big man. With that size came
strength and a permanent move to the offensive side of the ball. By the end
of that same year, Nate was shared the top of a prestigious list of
California's best. And as the famous movie line made famous "If you build
it, they will come," well come, they did. College coaches descended upon
Esperanza, this time to see... Nate Steinbacher. USC, Nebraska, Tennessee
and the University of Washington became his top four.
The thought of moving again, especially going someplace where his father
wouldn't be right around the corner, seemed unbearable. So, SC got the first
visit and right away they offered. It was almost a done deal, but the other
three schools were pushing hard and Nate's father, again, always searching
for every opportunity for his son, urged him to look further. They loved SC,
but he wanted to be sure. Nebraska came next, as did an offer, but it was
far away and LA was home and the visit at SC had gone so well that it didn't
require any more trips to know that the next time he put on Number 71, it
would be in Cardinal and Gold.
That was four years ago. Steinbacher had just turned 18, stood 6'5" and
weighed in at 348 pounds when he enrolled at USC as a freshmen. A redshirt
year followed, along with four different offensive line coaches and a season
ending injury, to get him to today. Today, he's 6'6" and weighs 290 pounds
- 58 pounds lighter. He is weeks away from turning 21. Vegas will be the
celebration destination, but we don't talk about Vegas more than that.
It was this latest staff that changed his life. Coach Carroll gave him some
attention last year, had Carlisle design a program and then hired the perfect
duo of Davis and Uperesa to manage the tutoring. Prior to re-injuring his
ankle which forced him to miss the last part of Spring, Number 71 was on the
rise. And again, coaches were taking notice. Coach Carlisle put together
agility drills to enhance his foot speed, developed a range-of-motion workout
and then turned his attention to his upper-body. The results are dramatic,
but have only just begun.
Listening to Steinbacher describe SC's current coaching staff, you'd think
he was talking religion. It's difficult to determine when the light is going
to go on and what will make it happen for a young man, but in Nate's case the
credit goes to his father and the current crop of SC coaches. Carroll builds
the fire, the will to win. Davis and Uperesa offer balance and discipline -
perfect teachers, one passionate and vociferous, the other nose down and
determined. And then Carlisle, an inspiration just as a man, is a genius in
the art of conditioning... "A million times better than anyone we've ever
The end result - Number 71, entering his Junior year, lighter, faster,
stronger and more prepared to own the starting Right Tackle spot then many
people might know. However, as the saying goes "those who matter, know the
The parallels to his maturation through high school, to what he's experienced
through his first three years in college are easy to draw. Even at the young
age of twenty, Number 71's lived through a lot. As tough as it has been,
life has not snatched the winning smile from his face but instead added
dimension. There's an edge to this young man that comes out when he's got
"the gear" on, that few of us could manifest.
Nate, himself, describes it as an "on-field nastiness" that he sees in all
his fellow linemen. And like any loyal team member, he'll defend his unit to
the death, but doesn't do so with blind faith. He only has to point to the
progress made from last Spring to this in proving his point. It's that
inspiration, divined through the staff, that has Coach Chow confident his
offensive will truly execute in 2002.
It is the attention from the coaches and the love from his extended family
that has kept Nate's head up through the last part of this journey. And
Number 71 is truly happy to finally get his shot and feels very prepared for
whatever may come.
His goals, after college, are as lofty as they are humble - confidence
without conceit. The fuel that burns the fire it's brightest is his desire
to return the love his father has given him, since his birth. Number 71 is
the best of what any fan could expect a Trojan to be - a man with a mission.