I was 10 years old when I first heard of Freddie Steinmark and that was in 1969. My first memory of Freddie Steinmark was of him standing on the sideline on crutches, faithfully supporting his Texas Longhorns while they were playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.
Freddie Steinmark fantasized about playing for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame as a child. As a young boy growing up in the Catholic Church, he always dreamed of suiting up and playing for the Irish.
Then, while as a player for Texas, he daydreamed of playing against the Fighting Irish. But, like the previous dream of winning one for the Gipper at Notre Dame, playing against them was never going to happen, either.
Freddie Steinmark grew up in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
Wheat Ridge, Colorado was once a farming community, but now it is engulfed by the city of Denver.
Steinmark was not the greatest athlete to ever come out of Wheat Ridge High School. That would be Dave Logan that played college football and basketball for the Colorado Buffaloes back in the 1970s.
Logan is one of only 3 men in the history of mankind to be drafted by the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Logan was drafted in high school by the Cincinnati Reds but he went to college and played both football and basketball for the Colorado Buffaloes which is a rarity in modern years. He decided on football and played for the Cleveland Browns for 8 years and then briefly for the Denver Broncos.
The other 2 guys that were drafted by all three major sports were Dave Winfield and Micky McCarty. Logan is currently a radio personality and one of the best high school football coaches in Colorado. S
Even though Dave Logan was the best athlete to ever come out of Wheat Ridge High School, the class of 1967 that included Freddie Steinmark was a pretty talented group of athletes.
The state of Colorado itself, is not exactly known for putting out major college talent in football. Colorado High School Football will not remind anyone of the great state of Florida, or Texas, or California as far as producing top football players. The Colorado Buffaloes love to recruit home state players, but they have to hit California and Texas pretty hard to bring in some players to help their football program.
Tony Boselli is one of the greatest Offensive Linemen of all time and he signed with the USC Trojans out of Boulder, Colorado. Boselli was the 2nd player picked in the 1995 NFL Draft and was All Pro many times before injuries shortened his career for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I ran into Boselli once, literally, at the Anaheim Convention Center and believe it when you read that he was 6-7, 325.
Colorado has produced many other good players and too many to list here.
Freddie Steinmark’s father, Fred, was a minor league baseball player and a really good athlete in his on right. Fred married a beautiful Italian American woman named Gloria Marchetti and after Freddie, they had three younger kids.
Fred Steinmark is the one who gave Freddie his incredible work ethic and probably most of his athletic ability. Fred Steinmark was as old school as they come. His coaches said he was neither very big, or very fast, he just had that outstanding inner drive. Sound familiar?
Fred was an all-state halfback twice and he was all-state in baseball, too, at North High School in Denver. Back in those years, North High School was a powerhouse program in the state of Colorado.
When Fred was finished playing football he had a few offers from colleges to play football, but the Cleveland Indians gave him a $1,100 bonus to play baseball and he desperately needed the money. So, he jumped on that.
He worked his way up in the minors until he was injured severely in an auto accident in Denver. He took a couple of years off and then was back at it in the Yankees farm system. Freddie was 3 years old at the time and Fred was needed at home. Family comes first and Fred gave up his dream of playing professional baseball.
Fred was Freddie’s biggest fan and supporter and started coaching Freddie from the very beginning in both baseball and football. His mother, Gloria, was 100% behind him from birth. The entire Marchetti clan was behind Freddie.
Fred taught Freddie that he had to outwork everyone else. Freddie knew even as a young child that he wasn’t going to be big enough or fast enough or good enough and that he had to be in shape and give the extra effort. Say what you want, but aren’t those the lessons we could all use from our fathers, and from our parents in general? Freddie got that inner drive, his heart if you will, from his father. There was never any quit in Freddie Steinmark and he would prove that the rest of his life.
From his mother, Freddie learned faith and devotion to family. His father came from a broken home. But, Gloria Marchetti Steinmark came from a huge family that was very close.
Gloria Marchetti was Catholic, also, and she raised Freddie and the rest of the children in the church, which is why he dreamed of playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as a kid.
Freddie started playing organized football in the 2nd grade in the old midget football leagues in Denver. Midget may not be Politically Correct these days, but that’s what they were called. Those old kid football leagues eventually became the Pop Warner that they play today. Wasn’t life much simpler when society wasn’t offended so easily?
Freddie played for the Rough Riders in the city of Denver. Their pledge was “I will play the game hard and clean and never be a quitter. What matters most is courage. It is no disgrace to be beaten; the great disgrace is to quit or turn yellow.”
That slogan is primitive, I do realize, but words to definitely live by and Freddie lived his life by just those words. He would remember those words all the remainder of his life and especially at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston.
Freddie met Linda Wheeler in junior high and they were together all through school.
Freddie Steinmark was always the star even as a little boy, and
he learned about pain even back with the Rough Riders. He broke both wrists, played a quarter with a broken arm and had many other minor injuries. Freddie was taught by his father, Fred, to play through pain and that’s the way he lived his life.
Freddie’s parents didn’t just push him in sports, they pushed him in academics as well and just as hard. Freddie worked at both really hard and he excelled in the classroom.
In junior high at Wheat Ridge, Freddie Steinmark teamed with Roger Behler to form a dangerous combination at the Running Back positions.
In high school, Behler moved to Quarterback leaving the Running back job solely to Freddie. Wheat Ridge’s nemesis in those years was Lakewood High School. They hadn’t beaten Lakewood since the 1950’s.
During their junior season, a new kid moved to town from California named Bobby Mitchell. Mitchell was a gifted athlete. He had the size and the strength, plus the quickness to be a very solid Running Back. Mitchell became Mr Inside to Freddie Steinmark’s Mr Outside.
They still couldn’t beat Lakewood.
Before Steinmark’s senior season of 1966, Wheat Ridge High hired a Texan from Odessa to coach the team. His name was John ‘Red’ Coats, but everyone just called him Red. Coats had coached at El Paso, Texas before and he attended a Dallas Cowboy training camp and came back and installed that Pro Style offense at his high school. He brought that with him to Colorado.
Coats was way ahead of his time in an era when most high schools and even colleges ran a straight T, or a winged T, or some other ancient offense.
Before his senior season, new coach Red Coats made every player step on the scales. He added an inch to Freddie’s height making him 5-10 and 15 pounds to his weight making him 165 which is why you take a player’s listed size with a grain of salt. Coaches have always stretched the truth, and that is certainly nothing new.
Going into his senior season, Freddie was 5-9, 150 and he never got a whole lot bigger than that.
Coats changed everything at Wheat Ridge. Wheat Ridge had never won a district championship before the arrival of Coats. Coats brought discipline and hard work and a completely different attitude.
Wheat Ridge with Steinmark, Behler and Mitchell finally beat Lakewood, 19-13. Freddie had a 77 yard touchdown run, 15 tackles on defense and an interception. Freddie really excelled at kick off and punt returns in high school running 3 back for touchdowns. He averaged 8 yards per carry running the ball and had 34 receptions.
Wheat Ridge went on to win the Colorado state championship that season. Freddie Steinmark won the Golden Helmet for the best combination scholar athlete in Colorado.
Red Coats and his Wheat Ridge Farmers went on to win state not only in 1966, but they repeated in 1967 and then again in 1973 before his retiring in 1978. Sadly, Red Coats died of cancer in 1999.
With his senior football season over, basketball and then baseball began for Steinmark. Nobody much wanted Freddie Steinmark, at least of the big schools that he was interested in. Colleges were mostly interested in teammate Bobby Mitchell, but even though Freddie Steinmark was the Denver area player of the year and all-state not many schools were interested due to his lack of size. There was no early recruiting back in those days, but the signing date was much later in the year and most of the recruiting took place after kids had completed their senior seasons.
Bobby Mitchell was a 205 pound Fullback. He was all-state and was receiving interest from some big schools.
Wheat Ridge head coach Red Coats would get involved with the recruitment of Steinmark. Coats didn’t cast aside his players after they used up their eligibility, and he worked hard for them and their futures. He got 7 out of the 11 players off of his offense from the 1966 state championship football team scholarships to play college ball. He went to work for Freddie Steinmark, too.
From his days in El Paso, Red Coats knew University of Texas Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell. Coats called Campbell and told him about his players and Campbell flew up and took Bobby Mitchell to dinner. Coats pushed Steinmark and Campbell liked the film but would have to get Steinmark approved by his boss, head football coach Darrell Royal.
Texas flew Bobby Mitchell and Freddie Steinmark to Austin for an official recruiting visit. Amusingly, Freddie wore cowboy boots on his visit so he would look taller, but Royal had been an undersized Quarterback for Oklahoma and saw much of himself in Steinmark and was not worried about his lack of size.
Both Steinmark and Mitchell were blown away and wanted to attend the University of Texas. Darrell Royal did not offer at that time, but the boys left very impressed.
Bobby Mitchell had offers from schools like Arkansas, Texas Tech, Minnesota, Georgia and others. He was all-state in football but also broke the state record in the shot put and some schools wanted him for track, too.
Steinmark was curious as to why the home state school Colorado was not interested in Mitchell. But, as soon as the Colorado coaching staff found out that Texas was interested in Mitchell and Steinmark, then suddenly they were also interested.
Texas did offer and signed the pair to a SWC letter of intent, but they were still free to pick another school outside of the SWC if they so desired. In those years the rules were different and a player would sign 2 letters of intent. Colorado made a really late push on the pair but they had already decided on Texas by then. Freddie and his family were upset that Colorado never cared about them before. Colleges could sign as many players as they wanted back in those years, there were no scholarship limits. Which makes the Colorado lack of interest really strange, in my opinion.
Freddie Steinmark was also drafted by the Cincinnati Reds who offered him $550 a month to play and he declined. Plus, both he and his parents wanted him to get and education.
Freddie Steinmark and Bobby Mitchell were the only out of state members of the 1967 Texas Longhorn recruiting class that was one of the tops in the nation. The class was named the Worster Bunch named after their top recruit that year, Steve Worster a Running Back from Bridge City, Texas. Some other members of that included Cotton Speyrer. Bill Atessis, Bobby Wuensch, Scott Henderson and many others. That class would go on to win the 1969 national championship and 30 straight games. Their overall record was 30 – 2- 1 in 3 years on the varsity.
Steinmark and Mitchell would go on to become a huge part of that.
Interesting, at least to myself, is that one of the Longhorns biggest competitors for the national championship in 1969 was Ohio State who also had a super class in 1967 that became known as the ‘Super Sophomores’. Also, interesting is that people were talking about playoffs in college football way back in the 1960s and it was just now done in 2014.
Everything about Freddie Steinmark comes from ‘Courage Beyond the Game: the Freddie Steinmark Story’ by Jim Dent and ‘I Play to Win’ by Freddie Steinmark and Blackie Sherrod. Plus, plenty of research on the internet.
Texas Monthly magazine gave Courage Beyond the Game a bad book review, but don’t believe a word of it. The book was emotionally moving beyond belief and contrary to what Texas Monthly’s made the book appear, you put down this book believing that you knew Freddie Steinmark.
I would highly recommend reading both books. Courage Beyond the Game is available most anywhere, but I Play to Win is expensive if you can find one.
The movie My All-American should be out this year and it should be a good one to watch and take some tissue if you are the crying at movies type.
Freddie Steinmark was a truly inspirational guy and please check back on this blog for the rest of his story. I am doing a 4 part series on his life and times. Everything I have seen, heard and read about Freddie Steinmark is uplifting.