2000: Steele returns for his second season starting at weakside linebacker as a senior in 2000 and could receive consideration for the Butkus Award. He missed 2000 spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery.
PAUL HACKETT SAYS: “Markus, quite simply, is an impact player. He has great speed and is a real hitter. It was amazing how well he made the jump from junior college to Division I football last season. We missed him this past spring, but we expect to have him back at 100% in the fall.”
1999: Steele, who came to USC from a junior college, made an immediate impact in fall camp and started all of 1999 at weakside linebacker as a junior. He upheld the USC tradition of outstanding defensive players wearing the No. 55 jersey, including NFLers Claiborne, Junior Seau and Willie McGinest. Overall in 1999 while appearing in all 12 games, he made 91 tackles (second on USC), including a team-best 12 for losses of 33 yards (with 3 sacks for minus 15 yards), 6 deflections, 1 interception (against San Diego State), 3 forced fumbles (against San Diego State, Oregon and Notre Dame), and 2 fumble recoveries (versus Hawaii, which he returned 46 yards for a TD, and San Diego State). He did not start (but played) against Stanford and California while bothered by shoulder and ankle sprains. He was third in the Pac-10 in forced fumbles (3) and tied for third in fumble recoveries (2). He was a 1999 Football News All-American honorable mention and All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick. After the season, he had surgery to repair a dislocating left shoulder. He began his college career at Hawaii with 4 tackles (1 was a sack), 2 deflections (1 led to a USC interception) and a recovered fumble which he returned 46 yards for a TD. Against San Diego State, he made 9 tackles (2 for losses, with a sack), intercepted a pass and forced a fumble which he recovered. He had a game-high (and 1999 USC individual high) 16 tackles at Oregon, added 4 stops against Oregon State, posted a game-high 14 tackles (2 for losses) and a deflection at Arizona, and had a game-high 12 tackles at Notre Dame (2 for losses, with a sack) and forced a fumble. Against Stanford, he had 4 tackles despite playing a limited role while bothered by a left shoulder sprain. He tied for the team-high in tackles at California with 7 (with 3 for losses). He had 9 tackles with a deflection against Arizona State, added 4 stops (1 for a loss) at Washington State, had 6 tackles against UCLA and 2 versus Louisiana Tech.
JUNIOR COLLEGE: He was picked to the 1998 J.C. Grid-Wire All-American first team, J.C. Athletic Bureau All-American Defensive MVP, Super Prep JUCO 100, J.C. Athletic Bureau All-State Region IV Defensive MVP and All-Mission Conference Northern Division Defensive MVP as a sophomore at Long Beach (Calif.) City College. In 1998, he posted 93 tackles, 17 tackles for losses, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery (for a TD), an interception (for a TD) and 2 blocks. He also carried the ball 4 times for 39 yards (9.8 avg.). Long Beach City was 10-1 in 1998 and ranked third in the state and sixth nationally. As a 1997 freshman, he made the J.C. Athletic Bureau All-State Region IV first team and All-Mission Conference Northern Division first team while making 96 tackles, 20 tackles for losses, 8 sacks and 2 interceptions. Current Trojan DeShaun Hill also attended Long Beach City.
HIGH SCHOOL: He prepped at Chanel High in New Bedford (Ohio), where he starred in football (middle linebacker and tailback) and basketball (power forward). He ran for 17 touchdowns in just 6 games as a senior. He was sidelined by a broken ankle midway through his junior year.
PERSONAL: He's a history major at USC.
MARKUS STEELE ON:
His hopes for the 2000 season: “I want to get bigger and stronger and knowing the whole defense comes back in 2000 makes it more fun. It will give me a chance to get more exposure, get a feel for the game. I still have a lot to learn.”
His 1999 season: “I didn’t think I would be as successful. My plan was to learn my way into the program during my junior year and have a nice senior year. It went better than expected…Leaving early for the NFL crossed my mind. It wouldn’t have been bad, but I figured I could help myself more if I stayed and got my degree. I just got here and I want to experience college life.”
Playing outside linebacker: “I like being an outside linebacker. It shows people how fast you can move side-to-side and I get to blitz a lot. The quarterback looks for pressure from the other side, so I think my blitzing scres teams up.”
His ability: “I’m faster than some running backs and I can keep up with them because I was one myself once. I can often tell where the offensive line is going to go and what the offense is going to run…I try to always be around the ball. My mentality is to get to every play. You never know when the ball will pop out…I try to pattern my style after (NFL star) Derrick Brooks. We both are a little smaller but are very fast. He has a complete game and that’s what I try to have as well.”
His demeanor: “Most people figure I play some sport, but not football. Some people say I’m too nice to play that kind of sport. I don’t want to have a football mentality every moment of my life. It’s something I can turn off and on. I want to be a regular student like everyone else.”
Wearing No. 55: “I had to take a couple of days to think about if I wanted to wear that number and decide if I wanted that much pressure. I didn’t want to be compared to anyone else. But the coaches told me how much the number meant to the program and that they didn’t want just anyone wearing it. I knew then that they had a lot of confidence in me…At first, I didn’t think too much about number 55. Then, when I realized who wore that number here before me, I wanted the pressure. I wanted to live up to the expectations of the others who wore it at USC…I knew that wearing that number meant I had to put up quickly…It’s a great honor to wear that number after all the great players who have worn it. My hope is to continue to carry on the tradition.”
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
USC cornerback Kris Richard: “Markus can play. He had a lot of hype coming in and he backed it up. When you watch him on film, it’s pretty amazing. To be as fast as he is at that position. He plays fast and he hits hard. And he is so intelligent on the field.”
Former USC tailback Chad Morton: “He’s fast, real fast. People try comparing him to (ex-USC Butkus Award winner) Chris Claiborne, but they’’e not the same type of players. Chris would run through people and rough you up. Markus’’game is to get to the ball and cover well. He’’ very fast. He’’l catch you if you’’e not running your fastest.”
USC safety DeShaun Hill, Steele’s junior college teammate: “The first time I saw him with pads on, I knew what the deal was. I started calling him ‘freak’ because he has freaky athletic ability. He’s fast enough to play defensive back but strong enough to take on offensive tackles. He’s just amazing. He’s just scratching the surface.”
Phil Collin, South Bay Daily Breeze: “He makes numerous highlight film-type plays with his relentless pursuit and ability to slither away from blocking schemes designed to slow him down.”
Scott Wolf, Los Angeles Daily News: “His speed and size make him attractive. He could probably even play strong safety in the NFL because of his athleticism.”
Former USC linebackers coach Shawn Slocum: “He’s a guy with the ability to make plays all over the field. He’s just plain fast. He comes off the edge and slithers through. What stands out is his range and that he plays with violence.”
USC football television analyst Craig Fertig, a former Trojan player and assistant coach: “People are starting to run away from him. But, hey, go ahead. He’ll catch them.”
Long Beach City College head coach Larry Reisbig: “He’s the best player I’ve ever had. Sure, he’s got great athletic ability, but he’s much more than just a great athlete. He has a real feel for the game and how the position is supposed to be played. He’d constantly talk to the coaches and watch as much film as he could. He’s a great leader and a wonderful kid to coach.”
MARKUS STEELE CAREER STATISTICS