By DRAKE LOHSE
Todd Stepsis could not be more pumped to begin his journey as Drake Football’s new head coach. His introductory press conference Thursday afternoon was high-caliber in both fire and brimstone.
“I’m all over this job,” the 27th head coach in Drake’s football history said. “I’m all over this program, and everyone else should be too. Spend a week with these guys and you’ll be ready to jump right in.”
No one could accuse him of being low energy. His presence in the media room of the Knapp Center Thursday was electric, and his prowess as a leader was apparent through a booming voice.
Coach Stepsis shot to the surface of a deep pool of interesting candidates.
Following Rick Fox’s resignation in December, intrigued coaches, from local high schools to Division 1 FBS programs sent in their applications. However, Todd Stepsis had an advantage over other applicants—last summer, he hiked 11 miles in seven hours across the Great Wall of China. Every inch of that journey was right alongside Drake Athletic Director Brian Hardin. Stepsis’ fierce sense of energy jumped out at A.D. Hardin plenty of times along that grueling trek. Stepsis has also been the defensive coordinator for the Drake Bulldogs for the last five seasons.
“He has such an ability to take control of a situation,” Hardin said. “The presence he has, and his ability to go anywhere and do anything with an extraordinary sense of confidence and energy is remarkable. Guys run through walls for Coach Stepsis.”
Todd Stepsis is no stranger to Drake football. He’s spent the last five seasons as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator. That continuity might just be what Drake Football needs to keep its momentum going. Under former head coach Rick Fox, the Bulldogs went 33-22, and finished fourth or higher in PFL standings each year. The floor in the Knapp Center Thursday was still vibrating with the buzz of December’s near upset over Iowa State.
The transition from Fox to Stepsis seems smooth and natural. His familiarity with the program has given him a direction in terms of what needs to change—and what needs to remain consistent. Stepsis outlined his plan of attack Thursday.
“Going forward we’re going to make sure we keep community service and academics top priorities,” Stepsis said. “That’s always been a staple during my time here and I don’t want it to change going forward. As far as what does need to change—our attitude needs to change. I have no doubt that our guys want to win, think we could win, but as far as believing we will win? I want to see that attitude more consistently going forward.”
Stepsis’ background is saturated with football. He grew up in Ohio, the son of a coach, and helped his dad at practices by pumping footballs and filling water bottles.
Prior to his five seasons at Drake, Stepsis spent six seasons coaching at Saginaw Valley. During his five seasons as defensive coordinator, his intensity at practice and in the locker room was the spark of a defense nicknamed the “Defensive Demons of Des Moines”. Those “Demons” were consistently ranked in the top ten in nearly every major defensive category.
Thursday afternoon, members of the press got a taste of that intensity during Stepsis’ 45-minute statement. At times, the press conference felt more like a team meeting, with Coach Stepsis lowering his eyes and challenging the audience.
“I believe in Drake Football,” Stepsis said. “Do you?”
Coach Stepsis ended Thursday’s press conference with one last question. “Does anyone wanna see a cartwheel?” And with that, Drake Football cart-wheeled into a new era. They kick off the 2019 season Aug. 31 in North Dakota.