ARIZONA BOWL | Faith and family forged Air Force's Weston Steelhammer
It is an unwavering order with which Weston Steelhammer has prioritized his life. Each of the elements comprising his value system have long been the driving force of how he conducts himself each day.
Sure, the senior defensive back at the Air Force Academy is the active FBS leader in career interceptions with 17 and this season he was the first Falcon to earn All-America recognition, including second-team AP, in six years. Yet, success on the gridiron in not likely unless faith and family are adhered to.
“I would not be here if it was not for God,” he said after practice Monday as the Falcons prepared for the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl against South Alabama Friday on ASN. “I wake up every day and go to sleep every day thanking Him for the abilities He has given me. It is such a blessing to be able to play this great game of football and I would not be where I am today without that blessing.”
When it comes to family Steelhammer, who lists Tim Tebow as a role model, is quick to credit his parents. He is also extremely appreciative of the support of his extended family, those that have been instrumental in his growth at the Academy both on and off the football field.
“The people that have been with me from the start, my parents and siblings,” he said in listing those crucial to his success. “Friends, coaches, teachers, teammates and classmates, everybody that has been there with me along the way and helped shape and mold me into what I have become. I say it all the time, but I would not be where I am today without all that help.”
There was much football influence in the family. His father, Terry Steelhammer, was a lineman under Fred Akers at Texas in the 1980s. His stepfather, Ron Alexander, was an All-American linebacker at Louisiana Tech where he was a teammate of Terry Bradshaw.
There is also the support from a grandfather, Ronald Brass, who played at Army West Point.
“He’s my biggest fan, until we line up across from the guys at West Point,” chuckled Steelhammer.
In fact, one of Steelhammer’s most memorable moments with the Falcons was a win at West Point in November that allowed them to capture the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Earlier in the season they defeated Navy. Winning the CIC, which Air Force did twice (also 2014) in Steelhammer’s career, means the team will make a trip to the nation’s capital to be honored for bringing the 170-pound trophy back to Colorado Springs.
“It is a special season when you are able to beat both of those teams, two real good teams,” he said. “A trip to the White House in the spring for the 32 seniors is going to be pretty exciting.”
It has been an exciting season for Steelhammer, whose final game will be the bowl. Air Force of the Mountain West enters at 9-3 and South Alabama of the Sun Belt is 6-6.
“We are going to have our hands full, that’s for sure,” he said. “We have to be prepared and stay disciplined with our eyes. We need to limit the big plays because they have some guys that can go the distance.”
The 6-2, 200-pound Texas native leads Air Force with 75 tackles and six interceptions. His effort resulted in being a first-team All-MWC selection for the third consecutive season. He is the first player in school history to be a three-time, first-team conference selection.
Steelhammer’s production also led to being a finalist for the Lott Trophy and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. The former honors performance, integrity, academics and the like with the latter given to the player judged to be the nation’s best defensive back.
“Those are individual accolades, but I see them more as team accolades,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in those situations, such as getting my hands on balls, if it were not for the guys up front getting pressure or the guys on the second level getting into passing lanes and stuff like that. Also, the coaches and support staff getting us ready day in and day out and putting us in the right places at the right time.”
Steelhammer, who had a decorated academic and athletic high school career in Louisiana, feels that he has been in the right place at the right time during his nearly four years at the academy. His military assignment will be as a logistics officer, which he found out in the fall. Come spring he will find out where he will be based.
As for football, if the opportunity presents itself he will pursue a career in the NFL.
“I would not trade my journey, if you will, for the world,” he said. “Coming to the Air Force Academy was obviously a mature decision for an 18-year-old at the time, but looking back on my four years here I have loved every minute of it. The relationships and friendships that I have built are second to none and will last a lifetime.”
Photos courtesy Air Force Academy Athletics