It’s a requirement for any story about him or any initial conversation with him.
That name. Weston Steelhammer. It sounds made up – like something out of a comic book. For a hard-hitting safety, it’s the perfect moniker.
“It’s funny,” Steelhammer said. “I used to not like it because it’s so many letters to write on every single test and quiz. But those tests and quizzes are dwindling fast, so I’m starting to like it more and more.”
Steelhammer is about to play his final college football game for Air Force, which takes on South Alabama in the second Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Friday afternoon. Afterward, he’ll finish the school portion of his service-academy commitment and prepare for the NFL draft.
But there’s something you should know about the son of Terry Steelhammer, a former Texas defensive lineman and long snapper:
Weston Steelhammer is far more than just the captain of college football’s all-name team. There’s real substance to this cadet, as all who encounter him come to learn.
“He is mature beyond his years,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of his 21-year-old senior safety. “He has nothing but the utmost regard and respect for other people. He absolutely gets it.”
Calhoun will miss Steelhammer the football player, and we’ll get into his game momentarily. His locker-room presence will be just as hard to replace.
Despite an all-everything career as a multisport star at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana, Steelhammer never assumed a big-man-on-campus persona. His mother, Cindy Alexander, taught freshmen and sophomores at the school when Steelhammer was a senior. Her students would describe Steelhammer as down-to-earth — “like one of the guys.”
“That’s a proud-mama moment for sure,” Alexander said.
Steelhammer excelled on the baseball diamond as well as the football field. Locals say he might have been the mos-talented shortstop Shreveport ever has produced. Yet late in his high school career he switched to catcher. Why?
“He was the catcher because that’s what they needed on the team,” said Ronnie Alexander, Steelhammer’s stepfather and Calvary Baptist’s defensive coordinator. “That’s the type of kid he is. He’s willing to do anything to make the team better.”
Steelhammer has loved sports for as long as anyone can remember.
“Most kids watch cartoons,” his mother said. “Weston watched ‘SportsCenter.’ ”
She recalled Steelhammer making a diving catch one time while playing T-ball. He was asked where he learned how to do that.
“From ESPN,” he replied.
Steelhammer’s favorite athletes growing up were Derek Jeter and Brett Favre. When he started playing flag football, Steelhammer played quarterback, among other positions. It helps explain his uncanny instincts.
Steelhammer is a truly multidimensional safety. When Air Force would play service-academy rivals Army and Navy, he would play near the line of scrimmage to help defend against the option. Steelhammer also is the NCAA’s active career leader with 17 interceptions.
Calhoun describes Steelhammer as “a guy who loves the nuances of studying football.” Despite the time demands of the Air Force Academy, Steelhammer finds the time to watch extra film. He considers it, if you’ll excuse the term, his duty.
“A lot of people ask what I think my strength is. I honestly think it’s just being a football player,” Steelhammer said. “You can’t coach being a football player — instincts, awareness, that kind of thing. Just putting in the extra hours behind the scenes, coming to work each and every day. I would say that’s gotten me to where I am — along with the coaches putting us in the right place at the right times and the other 10 guys doing their job play in and play out.”
Steelhammer generally defers credit to others. Many of his answers to a reporter’s questions begin with “gosh” or “yessir.” But there’s no denying he is the most-decorated member of the 2016 Air Force football team.
The Associated Press named Steelhammer a third-team All-American. He was one of four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, given to the defensive player with the best combination of character and production. The other finalists: Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, who won the award.
Allen and Peppers are certain first-round picks; Jackson might be one too. The latest projection at NFLDraftScout.com for Steelhammer is Round 7. But Calhoun said every NFL team has come through Colorado Springs to scout him. Steelhammer will get a long look.
He plans to pursue his NFL dream “if the opportunity presents itself.” If not, Steelhammer already has his post-graduate service assignment: logistics officer. He will find out where he’ll be stationed in spring.
“If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” Cindy Alexander said of her son and the NFL. “He’s got a bright future either way.”
Either way, Weston Steelhammer will make a name for himself.