Steeples Chasing Dream in His Hometown

Posted May 13, 2013

Given the choice amongst any team anywhere in the NFL to get his first opportunity as a professional, Robert Steeples had little doubt which would rank No. 1 in his heart.

The cornerback, who grew up in Florissant and played his high school ball at De Smet Jesuit, went through a childhood that fed him a steady diet of Rams football. And not just any Rams football but around the time a young Steeples was first really getting into the game just so happened to be the same time the Greatest Show on Turf was hitting its crescendo.

Steeples loved the Rams then, cheering for the likes of Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Az-Zahir Hakim, Marshall Faulk and, of course, his favorite player Todd Lyght. Lyght was the team’s top cover corner and Steeples had always loved the position.

The former Missouri and Memphis cornerback entered this year’s draft with some hopes that he’d be selected in the later rounds as a best case scenario. But he had prepared for the worst-case; a situation in which he wasn’t drafted and faced the decision of where he could go that he would fit in best.

Steeples sat down with his advisors and formulated a list of the top 15 potential destinations for him; taking into account the quality of the corners in place, the depth at the position on the existing rosters and the people in place who could help him improve his game.

Taking emotion out of the equation, Steeples’ heart and head happened to meet right here in his hometown.

“We did our homework because one thing I can control if I don’t get drafted is you have some decisions to make when free agency comes,” Steeples said. “So we had a board of 15 teams and ranked them and the Rams were No. 1 on my list and they were one of the first teams to call. So once one called and a couple other teams called, it was like the first choice called and gave you what you want so might as well go there. It just so happened to be in my backyard.”

Soon after the draft, Steeples agreed to a free-agent contract with the Rams, passing on offers from a handful of other teams and coming to the one place he’d dreamed of playing since he started out in the game at the age of 6.

Over the weekend, Steeples arrived at Rams Park to take part in the team’s rookie minicamp. After months of working out here in town at the Elite Football Academy, Steeples and the rest of the rookies finally got the chance to get back on an actual football field for actual football drills that didn’t involve running 40 yards as fast as possible in shorts and a t-shirt.

As Steeples pulled his blue and gold horned helmet over his head, he took a moment to stop and savor the moment.

“I’m not going to lie, I did have (a moment),” Steeples said. “I had to stop and think this isn’t a toy or memorabilia, this is for me. Once I put that on, it was pretty neat. It’s also nice to play for your city and put your city on your back. I carry St. Louis wherever I go even when I’m in St. Louis so it’s nice to have them on my back and now I have to try to represent them as well as possible.”

To that end, Steeples is hoping to follow the career arc of someone like another of those Rams he followed as a kid, linebacker London Fletcher. Fletcher, of course, made the team as an undrafted free agent and has gone on to a potential Hall of Fame career.

The goal for Steeples, like his rookie free agent brethren, isn’t just to get here but to stay awhile.

“I was told I would be a late-round pick and I was looking forward to that but at the end of the day, I always dreamed about not just getting drafted into the NFL but playing in the NFL,” Steeples said. “Last time I checked, draft picks and non draft picks all play on the same gridiron so I am still right where I want to be.”

Coming out of DeSmet, Steeples made an early commitment to Mizzou, where he spent the first four years of his college career, including a redshirt season. In three years of playing, Steeples appeared in 39 games with one start, working mostly in sub-packages.

Steeples posted 41 tackles and nine passes defended but his highest achievement might have been the degree he earned in business. Having spent four years at Mizzou and already earned a degree, Steeples took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows players to transfer and play right away if they can pursue a post-graduate degree in a program not offered by their initial school.

Memphis offered that opportunity and came with the bonus of familiarity in the form of defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who had recruited him to Columbia as an assistant at Mizzou.

The silver and blue version of the Tigers also offered Steeples something he else he wanted: the chance to play more. He finished his lone season there with 42 tackles, three fumble recoveries and five passes defended in 10 starts and 12 games.

Soon after his final collegiate season ended, Steeples returned home to St. Louis and home to train at the Elite Football Academy where he felt most comfortable.

“I have been training there with the Elite people since I was a freshman or sophomore in high school,” Steeples said. “I feel like they gave me an advantage and top notch training right in my backyard. Those guys, they started out as mentors and coaches but they are friends as well now. They are good people to have in my life.”
Now that his opportunity with the Rams is underway, it’s up to the 6’2, 190-pound Steeples to do everything he can to extend his stay.

Entering the next phase of the offseason program, Steeples joins a secondary that is quite young and could potentially have an opening for another corner or two on the 53-man roster. While Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and fifth-round pick Brandon McGee figure to be solid in their spots, should the Rams look to keep an additional corner, Steeples could find himself right in the mix with the likes of Quinton Pointer and other rookies corners such as Darren Woodard.

The first weekend went well, according to Steeples, who said he’s had no problems working on picking up the playbook given that he’s not too far removed from finishing school.

“They definitely threw a lot at me,” Steeples said. “One thing that helped me is I am finishing up some Masters work at Memphis so Friday I finished my last final and then my brain didn’t get much rest so I am still fresh as far as activating the mind and the new plays. It’s a lot of stuff but that’s one of my strong suits and I’ll pick up as much as I can and I’m sure my teammates and coaches will help me.”

Whether or not Steeples gets to live out his dream of playing for the Rams in a regular season game remains to be seen but for now he’s focused on doing all he can to make that dream a reality.

That it could happen in the uniform he once only dreamed about makes the possibility that much more tantalizing. 

“It’s pretty neat. I try not to be a fan about it because I’d take this opportunity anywhere across the nation but I’m still a Rams fan,” Steeples said. “I grew up with the Greatest Show on Turf and I enjoyed watching them under Coach Fisher last year so once I got the chance to come here, it was definitely a bonus, an extra incentive for me to want to be part of the Rams but like I said they’ve got great people here and if they were somewhere else with this staff and this facility, I would have been just as excited. But it is like icing on the cake to be in my hometown.”