The best player you’ve never heard of


February 11, 2015

Stepnoski2Throughout the years, Prep has had a mass of D1 athletes walk through its halls. Only a select few of those players, however, get to chase their dream after school and into the pros. Bob Sanders is one of the most well-known players, having been named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year a mere 7 years ago, and winning a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007.  He is still not the most decorated Rambler alumni however. Little heard of Mark Stepnoski takes that award as a 5-time NFL Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys.

Stepnoski was born in Erie, Pa., on Jan. 20, 1967. He graduated from Prep in 1985 as a highly touted offensive lineman and had offers from all over the country. Chris Grychowski, affectionately known to students as “Coach G” called him unblockable and nearly impossible to get around on offense. Stepnoski was named a third-team All American as a sophomore and first team during his junior and senior seasons. On the field he was a beast, but off of the field he was quieter than many would expect. Rick Grychowski, a coach at Prep at the time, said he kept back to himself and wasn’t one to run around and scream before the game.

Stepnoski’s time at Prep was very successful on and off the field. He graduated ranked very high in his class and was beloved by most teachers. Coach G, who was a freshman when Mark was a senior, shared a story he heard during his time at Prep of Mark’s strength and respect. Mrs. Mullen, a legendary math teacher and former principal at Prep, was reaming out one of her students one day during class. That student had had enough and took it upon himself to make a move towards Mrs. Mullen. Out of nowhere, Stepnoski stepped in, tackled the student, and held him down until administration got there.

He showed that he wasn’t the stereotypical student and had everything he needed to be successful after college. After Prep, he attended the University of Pittsburgh, and was a four-year starter there.

Stepnoski was primed to go to the NFL; however, many scouts thought he was too undersized to be successful. His size didn’t stop the Dallas Cowboys from picking him third round in the 1989 draft, however. He was quickly switched to center and started the last four games of his rookie season. He ended up being able to use his size to an advantage to gain leverage on bigger defensive lineman.  He had an extremely successful career playing in Dallas for six seasons, then the Houston Oilers for 4 seasons, then back to the Cowboys for three to finish his amazing career.

After his career in the NFL he was elected to the National Football League 1990s all-decade second team. He was in line to be elected into the Cathedral Prep Hall of Fame, but it came out that he had been using marijuana and advocating its legalization. Many people began criticizing his drug use and his reputation as a player was deeply hurt. Mr. Flanagan, Father Jabo, and Stepnoski got together and came to the collective decision that the world wasn’t ready to have someone with his stance on marijuana in the hall of fame. Stepnoski accepted the decision and ended on good terms with the school.

Stepnoski had one of the most successful careers for a Rambler in the pros, even though he isn’t in the hall of fame. But who knows, maybe one day with the drug issue behind them, he will be able accept his place in the hall of fame.

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7 thoughts on “The best player you’ve never heard of

  1. Ripper Rzepecki says:

    Steps should be in the Prep HOF , No doubt in my mind that fact that he advocated the legalization of marijuana just says more about his character . It is now 2015 it is legal in 4 states and medicinally acceptable in 27 states. If he would of went on to make miller lite commercials would that of been ok ? Having graduated in 1989 Steps was one of those guys you only hoped you could be …Vote hi

  2. mark restifo says:

    mark was stronger than any player I ever met. Great article. Well written and informative. Roll Ramblers!

  3. Dave Rut says:

    Steps was the center piece of one of the most dominate offensive lines in NFL history with the Cowboys. He helped Emmit Smith become the NFL all time leading rushers. Educated fans who watched him play in high-school, college and in the league recognize his greatness even if Prep doesn’t.

  4. bob raines says:

    I knew mark personally ..he was a great guy to hang with . so he smoked weed ..something that may of been deemed bad back then…but in reality..it saves lives. This man gave his all to prep.and for them to do this to him is shameful. Shame on you prep for being so closed minded

  5. Chris Chane says:

    athletes should be judged on their performance on the field, not by choices they made after their career ended. Mark Stepnoski deserves to be in the Prep Hall of Fame. Period. The fact that he is not is embarrassing.

    Chris Chane ’86

  6. Larry Piotrowicz says:

    Liked the article but don’t agree with the title. Most every sports fan in Erie know Stepnoski, particularly if they saw him play. Even more than as an offensive lineman, I remember him as a sophomore 6’2″ 220 pound linebacker that seemed to be in on every tackle. His ability to add the weight required to play at the next levels without losing his agility and strength made him the nationally-known figure he was during his days in the NFL.

  7. Scott Yeager says:

    Prep are morons for not recognizing Stepnoski. more than 50% of adults in the USA smoke Marijuana. I don’t think that anyone should smoke it whenever they want recreational but as medical it obviously serves a purpose. But to hold your nose up to someone who is obviously the #1 NFL player ever to come out of the school because he supports it is just wrong. There’s staff at Prep RIGHT NOW who leave school and smoke. It’s not a huge deal.

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