HARTSELLE — Sidney Steele can see the issue when watching television on Saturdays.
Receivers with his build aren’t filling up college football rosters.
At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Steele doesn’t have the physique of a typical college receiver, but the Hartselle High senior has one gift that should make any football coach gush: blazing breakaway speed.
High school players who can run a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds are a premium. Steele is in that elite group.
Steele was timed at 4.47 during a camp at Auburn this summer, and he’s been flashing that explosive speed on the football field ever since.
“He’s a special player, a good one to have on your side,” Hartselle quarterback Deacon Aldridge said.
“We’ve been playing football together all the way through, so we’ve got a good relationship. I always like it when I can get the football in his hands.”
A gifted athlete, Steele raised his bar during the offseason.
Training with former Hartselle and Alabama receiver Nikita Stover, Steele added 15 pounds while shedding more than a second off his time in the 40-yard dash.
“We did a lot of cone drills and worked on my strides,” Steele said. “This summer, I really focused on getting stronger in my legs, trying to become more a more explosive player.”
The hard work paid off.
Steele is one of the fastest players in the area, and he’s building a reputation as a go-to receiver, putting together a solid senior campaign.
But fastest person at Hartselle? Some have disputed the notion.
Hartselle senior Quanesha Burks is major Division-I track and field prospect, and this past spring, a few of Steele’s classmates hinted that she might be faster.
“We probably need to have a race,” Steele joked. “I’m always down for a race with anybody. I’ve tried to get her to race, but she usually finds a way out of it. She’s really fast, but I’m pretty sure that I’d win.”
All kidding aside, Steele really isn’t concerned about who’s faster. His ego isn’t one that needs to be stroked.
Yes, Steele is a star football player for the defending Class 5A state champions, but in a casual conversation, an uninformed person probably wouldn’t reach that conclusion.
Steele is articulate with a light personality. Humility is a strong quality. Yes, he is a competitor, but he’s also an unselfish teammate willing to play any role on the team that his coaches ask.
And his role has expanded.
Steele is enjoying a breakout season. In seven games, he has finished with more than 80 total yards three times. One of those was a 91-yard performance against top-ranked Muscle Shoals’ talented defense.
So, does Steele have a favorite? Perhaps the two-touchdown performance against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa?
“The Hillcrest game was a lot of fun. That was kind of a breakout game for me, and I’ve been trying to build on that one,” Steele said. “But I’ve also had some good games as a blocker.”
Really? An explosive receiver placing blocks in his top moments?
“I take a lot of pride in being a good blocker,” he said. “I love to have the football in my hands, but winning games is more important, and being a good blocker helps us do that. Because I’m so small, being a good blocker is probably what will get me to the next level.”
Obviously, Steele has been thinking about his future, but making detailed plans is another strong suit.
When asked about his plans for after high school, Steele recited an organized list that basically mapped out the next decade.
Playing college football is on the wish list. But if that doesn’t happen, Steele said attending college is still on the itinerary.
And after that?
“I want to go to college, hopefully either UNA or South Alabama, and work toward becoming a civil engineer,” Steele said. “After that, I want to be an officer in the military. My uncle was an officer, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to travel, and that would allow me to do that.”
Until then, Steele plans to continue showcasing his skills on the football field, hopefully landing a spot on a college roster in the process.
“I’m just going to keep showing my speed, try to make guys miss and make big plays,” Steele said. “To get there, I have to play bigger and try to do everything better.”
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