Signing a national letter of intent to play football for the Arizona Wildcats is a moment Syndric Steptoe will never forget.
Surrounded by family and Bryan High School (Texas) head coach Marty Criswell, Steptoe anchored his life at UA in his coach’s office.
Steptoe, who is now senior director of player and community relations for his alma mater, in partnership with three-time Super Bowl champion and amphitheater product Riki Ellison, will lead the “Youth Impact Program,” a two-person camp. weeks for college students. which will take place every weekday from Monday to June 24.
The Youth Impact program was founded by Ellison in 2005, but is entering its second year at AU. The camp is free to attendees who will have 43 counselors in total – 25 Davis Monthan Air Force Base Airmen and 18 UA soccer team players. Local teachers will also serve as advisors for the educational part of the YIP.
Steptoe, who played at UA from 2003 to 2006, created a signing party Thursday at Amphi Middle School for camp attendees to simulate the emotions of signing on to become a student-athlete.
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“They signed on for ‘This is what I’m committing to for the next two weeks,'” Steptoe said. “It was a big deal for, so to be able to emulate that opportunity or that type of program, we’re teaching those kids the importance of signing an NLI. But more importantly, we want to show them the importance of going to college. That’s what it’s ultimately about.”
Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch, who spoke to campers Thursday ahead of signing night, learned about the Youth Impact program in 2016 when he was an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan .
“I saw how impactful it was and how awesome it was to team up with the military and help kids who might not be as privileged as others,” said Fish. “Then to be able to do it last year during COVID, we were able to keep them safe, and our players loved it. My hope is to do it every year and make it Arizona’s home base.
Each day during the camp will start at 8 am sharp with breakfast and the academic part until noon. For an hour, campers will disperse in a “leadership development session.” Paul Dias, owner of 14 McDonald’s in Tucson, contributes to the camp lunch. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the student-athletes will then have football training.
“We keep them engaged through academics and then we get to the football part later,” Steptoe said.
Fisch will implement “RAISE,” the five program values enshrined in every UA football facility, which represent respect, responsibility, innovation, selflessness and enthusiasm.
“We don’t need to talk about rules as long as we live by those values,” Fisch said. “I think these kids can benefit from the same.”
Growing up “in the backyard of Texas A&M,” the only connection to the hometown college similar to the Steptoe Youth Impact program was a mentorship program that placed Aggie football players in elementary schools around College Station. and Brian.
“Local Aggies would come and mentor elementary school for a semester, but nothing as intense as working with the current football program,” Steptoe said. “So when I heard about that, I said, ‘I’m all-in. Tell me what should I do. My passion is to work with young people, to make them see something bigger than them and to be part of something bigger than them. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it, because I see the importance of it.
Steptoe added, “It’s created a big buzz in the community, and college kids want to participate. When (Fisch) first got hired, that was one of the first things we talked about, having a camp like this.
Steptoe said the benefits of the Youth Impact program include “building character and confidence.”
“It also allows them to connect with people of the same age from all over the city, who they may never be able to interact with,” he said. “It gives them a vision to see themselves in a university environment which hopefully sparks something in them to graduate from university. Knowing that college pass rates as a student-athlete are low, having that goal and for this program to give them that goal is another asset they will have in their back pocket.
Most staff on campus
In less than two months, the Wildcats will officially begin preparation for the 2022 season with a preseason training camp. Fisch told The Star this week that the Wildcats currently have 107 players — “98%” — in Tucson for the summer.
“Everyone we want to be here is here,” Fisch said. “I’m pretty excited about the way the bodies are looking. They looked like they’ve been enjoying the offseason pretty well.
As of this weekend, the turf at Arizona Stadium was, well, not turf. Instead, it was dirt and gravel, as UA is in the midst of a $1.4 million turf relocation.
The athletic department-funded project is expected to wrap up before Aug. 1, when the Wildcats begin preseason training camp.
“We’ll have a nice, brand new turf to run on on opening day. Hopefully we can use it for a scrum and then definitely for our simulated play,” Fisch said. “We hope Saturday’s mock game is as real as possible. We want there to be as many people, as many squads, as many cheerleaders, so that we can practice on this new ground, on what it’s going to look and feel like. I think it’s going to be pretty special.
Fisch told the Star that “90% of the facilities are new” and that the Wildcats recently spent between $300,000 and $400,000 on recovery equipment, including hydrotherapy, 1,080 sprint systems and under-the-radar treadmills. sailors, among other rehabilitation equipment.
“All good things,” Fisch said.
Fisch talks about NIL, recruiting
Fisch has a mindset regarding the new name, image and likeness (NIL) era of college athletics, which allows student-athletes to receive compensation for endorsements: sink or to swim.
“It is clear that to be competitive, you have to be competitive in the NIL market. For us, we have to make sure our players benefit from being in Tucson or the strength of the Arizona alumni that we have,” Fisch said. “We are the pro team in town, so we have opportunities and our players have opportunities to benefit from small businesses and so many different people who live in Tucson. NIL is a huge business and we need to make sure we are active, and we have been so far.
In coalition with UA’s Eller College of Management, the “Arizona Edge” program was established last year to help educate student-athletes about NIL offerings and how to maximize opportunities to earn money during their college years. Over the past year, UA players have landed personal NFTs and sponsorship deals for their social media accounts. Quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan have created a podcast, “Island Time in the Desert,” and are recording every episode at ATL Wings, a downtown restaurant.
“Our guys need to benefit from this and use these avenues for name and image and likeness and benefit financially. … NIL was important to us, but you need those numbers to compete for a championship,” Fisch said.
Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher had a verbal war last month, when Saban suggested the Aggies had the top-ranked recruiting class for 2022 because they used NIL to secure the best prospects. Fisch said NIL has been included in recruiting pitches for players, although he provides examples of what current players are going through.
“If you follow the letter of the law, which hopefully every team does, you shouldn’t be talking about what a player can get if he comes to your school. What you can do is is communicating to players and their families what current players are getting and why, what they are doing and why they are doing it We don’t really get involved with NIL on the recruiting side, we deal with the education side of NIL with our recruits and then we make sure our players are taken care of.
The year after the Wildcats secured one of the best recruiting classes in the Pac-12 and nationally, which included the signing of McMillan, the highest-rated prospect in program history, Fisch said Arizona is “looking to double down” for 2023.
Arizona currently has 11 players committed to 23, and Fisch, who posts a gif of a dancing cactus to his Twitter account every time the Wildcats receive a commitment, expects this class to rival the official premier class. coaching staff. This month, Arizona landed seven commits.
“We are looking to have a great class this year. I feel good so far with recruiting, and we have a lot of momentum right now,” Fisch said. “A lot of people want to be part of Arizona football and they want to see the momentum of Arizona football.
“We have to keep building it and keep producing dancing cacti.”
Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or [email protected] On Twitter: @JustinESports