120 Players To Know - Memphis's Curtis Steele
Memphis RB Curtis Steele
Memphis RB Curtis Steele
Posted Mar 16, 2009

Who are the players you need to know about? Maybe they've been under the radar, or maybe they're the future NFL stars who'll be a really big deal next April. Get to know the stars of 2009 as CFN profiles 120 Players You Need To Know over 120 days (one for each team) continuing with Memphis RB Curtis Steele.

120 Players You Need To Know

Memphis RB Curtis Steele

By Richard Cirminiello

Who is Curtis Steele? … This time last year, Memphis really had no idea who was going to carry the load on the ground. Steele ended the mystery in the opener against Ole Miss before going on to become just the fourth Tiger to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year. A transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, he redshirted in 2007, using that time to get a little stronger and a lot more comfortable with his new surroundings. The apprenticeship paid off for Steele and the school. In his debut at this level, he went over 100 yards six times, often carrying an offense that had problems keeping quarterbacks healthy. He’s got great moves in the open field, but won’t dance around if his blockers are doing their jobs. He hits the hole quickly and is always moving forward, a rarity for a 193-yard back. If Arkelon Hall improves at quarterback and provides a vertical threat, slowing down Steele will be that much tougher for opposing defenses in 2009. 

Steele’s best game so far was … the Southern Miss game last Oct. 25. Although Steele had more yards a month earlier against Arkansas State, this game had far greater meaning to the junior. In front of a homecoming crowd, he ran for 178 yards and two scores, lifting the offense on a day when the Tigers were down to their third and fourth option at quarterback.

Why you should care about Steele? … If he can improve on his 1,223-yard opening act at this level, Steele is destined to become this year’s premier back in Conference USA. With only modest support from the Tiger passing attack, he exploded on to the scene for a program that was looking to finally bridge the gap from the DeAngelo Williams era that ended in 2005. He’s an exciting runner, who can go the distance with just one timely block.

Positives about Steele … At 5-11 and 193 pounds, Steele isn’t all that big, but he uses his size and quickness to his advantage, darting in and out holes in a flash. He’s a patient, north-south runner with the vision to accelerate to daylight before the first line of defense touches him. He has outstanding agility, and posted a 4.45 in the 40 last year, making him one of Memphis’ fastest players.

Negatives about Steele … Steele plans to spend his final year in Memphis getting better at the little things, such as picking up the blitz on passing downs, avoiding fumbles, and getting stronger in the weight room. After catching just eight passes for 187 yards, he’s also hoping to become more dangerous as an outlet on swing passes out of the backfield.

A cool thing about Steele you probably didn’t know … Leaving high school and junior college, Steele was considered to be an SEC talent by a bunch of schools in the conference. However, they all wanted him to play cornerback, while Memphis assured him he’d get a chance to be an every-down back.

Career Statistics
2007: Did not play
2008: 218 rushes for 1,223 yards and seven touchdowns – eight catches for 187 yards

Statistics, information and photo provided by the Memphis sports information department