December 2006 College Athlete of the Month: Jamie Steffensmeier

“Whatever he chooses to do in life, he will be a great success.”

– St. John’s Head Coach John Gagliardi

School: St. John’s University
Team: Football
Year: Senior
Major: Accounting
GPA: 3.85
Age: 23

It may be hard for him to see it at the moment, but Jamie Steffensmeier, a 6-0 219 lb linebacker for St. John’s University, has many bright days ahead of him. It’s the sting of a recent 17-14 loss to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals that’s probably occupying his mind. His football career is over after all, but many see a triumphant future for Jamie, nonetheless.

“Many exceptional young men have attended this fine University and have made their mark in society. Jamie Steffensmeier certainly ranks with the best,” says Head Coach John Gagliardi.

When referring to Jamie’s success, it’s hard to know what to mention first. The natural place to start are his football stats—this season alone he’s been a Draddy Trophy Semifinalist, named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 5 College Division First Team and made the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American First Team.

His penchant for success began when he was just a tike, playing flag football at eight years old with his twin brother Tony, or tackle beginning at ten.

“My mother and father taught my brother and I. I remember playing catch in the road with my brother because our yard wasn’t big enough.”

The two brothers watched their cousin Adam’s games at Mankato East and went on to have incredibly successful high school football careers there themselves. It wasn’t all fun and games though.

“I think maybe one of the worst moments in my football career may have turned out to be the best for me. My senior year of high school we lost in the State Championship in the last seconds. That has always stuck with me and helped motivate me for the future because I never wanted that experience again.”

Photo courtesy of St. John’s University

It was that motivation for success, plus Jamie’s twin brother, that eventually convinced him to transfer from North Dakota State University—where he played part of his freshmen year until a season-ending injury—to St. John’s University in St. Joseph, Minn.

“I transferred to St. John’s for two reasons. The first was because my brother attended and when I would come and visit him, I just fell in love with the place. Secondly, NDSU was making the jump to Division 1-AA. This put the University on probation, which meant they were unable to make post-season appearances.”

Out with a torn ACL at the time, Jamie knew he was unable to compete in spring practices and thought it would put him too far behind with the new coaching staff and fighting for his position. Instead, he moved into a house with his brother (built by their own hands) and quickly found his place at St. John’s and on Gagliardi’s football team in 2003.

He’s been an asset ever since. 2003 was the big year St. John’s University won the National Championship and Jamie led the team with 121 tackles, 56 of which were solo. He was a member of the All-West Region Team that year and 2004, as well as an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American Second Team selection both years.

Setting stats aside—although such honors as earning three-time ALL-MIAC and leading his team in tackles really are hard to ignore—Jamie’s admirable qualities seem to abound.

Selflessness is one of them. Jamie actively volunteers with the student-athlete advisory committee and works with various children’s programs in the surrounding area.

Tenacity is another. In the world of this Mankato native, one might rephrase the common ‘fall off the horse’ expression to say, ‘if you fall and bust your knee (once or twice or three times), get back up and on the field.’ His dedication to doing just that has been more than worthwhile. He missed the entire 2005 season at St. John’s after re-injuring the same knee that took him out at NDSU, but fought back to join his teammates this year.

“I think overall it has helped motivate me this year. Last year was painful watching my brother and many of my close friends on the field without me. It helped motivate me to get up for my 6am workouts all off-season. It also has helped me to cherish this year even more after missing the last one.”

Jamie’s contributions shined once he was back, much to no one’s surprise. While leading the team in total tackles all season, he led the team—along with his teammate Kevin Boegel—up until the very end, with nine tackles in their final game. The Johnnies ended the 2006 season with an 11-2 overall record (7-1 MIAC) after losing to the Warhawks, ranked second in the nation all fall.

With the season over, Jamie will soon look ahead, although his immediate course is already decided. After finishing his senior year and graduating in May, Jamie will be commissioned as a Supply Officer in the United States Navy this summer. Unsure of whether he’ll make a career of the Navy, his ‘back-up’ plan involves putting to good use the Accounting degree he’s garnered at St. John’s. With an impressive 3.85 GPA, it looks like he has another stat to add to his resume.

In the end, Jamie uses one word to describe his athletic and academic career at St. John’s—

“Amazing. I could not have asked anything more from a college experience. Not only winning a National Championship (in 2003), but also being privileged enough to play for a coach like John will be an experience I will never forget.”

Clearly, the feeling is mutual.

“He is everything a coach would want in a student-athlete,” Gagliardi says. “Whatever he chooses to do in life, he will be a great success.”

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