USC Football

Fate played a role in Markese Stepp ending up a Trojan

June 8, 2018

When USC offered RB Markese Stepp on March 27 last year, it appeared to be one of those offers that would result in nothing more than a post on Twitter expressing generic excitement.

What we didn't know was Stepp already had a long-time relationship with running backs coach Deland McCullough who was hired by USC on March 3.

"I had known Deland since I was 10 years old, because he and my dad played together at Miami of Ohio," said Stepp. "When Deland got there he said, 'I'm bringing you with me.' Those were his exact words. I had been committed to Notre Dame for almost two years at that point."

So, the offer from the Trojans was far more significant to Stepp than most outside of the USC, Stepp or his family could have imagined. Without McCullough ending up at USC, Stepp says he may have ended up at Purdue or another school closer to home.

"I thought Deland might be the best running backs coach in college football," said Stepp. "The crazy thing was he wasn't really known like that, because he was at Indiana. What he did within a year with Ronald Jones rushing for 1,500 yards stood out. He became a much more physical runner and he just looked so much better than he did the year before."

But Stepp didn't speak often with the media and it wasn't until after he decommitted from Notre Dame on Dec. 2 that it appeared the Trojans may have a really good shot at getting him. Then on Dec. 15, Stepp took and eye-opening official visit to USC.

"Deland got me out there for an official visit and I just knew USC was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I fell in love with the school and felt really comfortable."

Although Stepp ultimately felt at home at USC while on his visit, he wasn't 100 percent sure about about the Trojans until he met head coach Clay Helton.

"Before I got to USC I didn't really know how much I was going to like it," said Stepp. "And once I was there I still wasn't really sure, until I met Coach (Clay) Helton. He is the most down-to-earth coach I have ever met. You can tell how much he cares, he's there for his players and he's very passionate about what he does. USC also kind of felt fresh, like it's a new start and I'd like to help get the program back to where it was back in 2005."

The opportunity to compete for playing time as a freshman is something USC offers Stepp, but McCullough also believed the combination of Stepp's size and speed would allow him to excel in the Pac-12.

"Deland was also telling me I could tear it up out there, because they play a different style of football than they do back here," Stepp said. 'I'm gonna come in ready to compete, but there are a lot of good running backs in that room and it's not going to be easy. But there is a great opportunity for me right now."

Stepp signed his letter-of-intent with the Trojans less than a week after he took his official visit, and we first had an opportunity to speak with him when he arrived in Waikiki, HI for the Poly Bowl on Jan. 15.

It took less than a minute to realize Stepp was the kind of person any coach would dream of having on his team. He's also a kid who seemed as if he knew all of the other USC commits/prospects playing in the Poly Bowl for years. Stepp is someone, much like DT Trevor Trout, you could put anywhwere in the world and he'd have no problem striking up conversations. He's from Indianapolis, but he seems very "West-Coast"....whatever that means.

"It's my personality in that I can basically talk to anybody," said Stepp. "I actually think that may be more about being from the Midwest."

Everytime we saw Stepp at Poly Bowl practices or at the host hotel, he seemed to be recruiting for the Trojans. By the time the week was over on Oahu, Stepp knew a few of Trojans's big-time uncommitted players would be joining him at USC.

"I just had a strong feeling with Solo (Tuliaupupu)," Stepp said. "You can tell sometimes when someone is telling you they don't know, but you know they do. Isaac Taylor-Stuart told me in Hawaii he was going to USC. And I knew Devon (Williams) was coming, too."

Despite Stepp not being 100 percent healthy, he tried to practice with his Poly-Bowl teammates until it didn't make sense. But he says he's the healthiest he's been in two years right now. Stepp missed most of his junior season with a hamstring issue and played most of his senior season at less than 50 percent.

"I'm at 100 percent right now, but in Hawaii I couldn't really run," said Stepp. "I wanted to really badly with me not being healthy for most of my senior year. I had taken some time off and thought I'd be okay, but decided not practice."

On Thursday Stepp arrived in Los Angeles and today he's moving into his dorm, and  enrolling in summer school. His running backs coach won't be Deland McCullough, but Tim Drevno is someone he was recruited by when he was at Michugan.

"I knew Coach (Drevno) when he was at Michigan," said Stepp. "He recruited my friend Emil (Ekiyor) who was committed there and ended up at Alabama. He recruited me really hard when I was committed to Notre Dame, so I've been knowing him for a while. He's a cool guy, very knowledgable and he knows a lot more about the position than people give him credit for."

Since we haven't had an opportunity to see Stepp play in person,  we asked him what his strenghts are as a running back.

"I make people miss as well as run through them, I feel i've got stamina and can score from anywhere on the field," Stepp said. "And I think I've got breakaway speed. When I'm healthy, I've never really been caught from behind. My senior year I was running at about 30 percent. I can make people miss and get in the end zone. I also think my route running and ball skills are good."

This was my favorite part of my 45 minute conversation with Stepp.

"When I was younger I used to dream about playing college football and now that it's actually going to happen, it's crazy," said Stepp. "The dream is actually about to come true."

Yes it is Markese!!



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Fate played a role in Markese Stepp ending up a Trojan

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