2021 RB DJ Stepney chooses Chippewas after coaches show belief in his versatility
If something can be done on a football field, expect DJ Stepney to do it.
In his junior season, Stepney ran for 1,226 yards and 13 touchdowns while also making 60 tackles and intercepting two passes. The Macomb Dakota High School star also handled punt and kick returns, serving as a proverbial Swiss Army knife for the Cougars, who finished 6-5 on the season.
On Monday night, Stepney announced that he'll be taking his talents to Central Michigan in the fall of 2021, joining a recruiting class that currently features linebacker Diego Neri and offensive lineman Trevor Jones. In securing Stepney's commitment, Central Michigan is getting a do-it-all athlete who brings the ability to contribute at a high level on both sides of the ball.
"I take pride in it so much," Stepney said of his abilities to play on both sides of the ball. "I wouldn’t say I’m cocky about it but I’m very confident about my ability on both sides of the ball. I don’t feel there’s anyone who can do it as best as me on both sides of the ball, play after play, not getting a break."
Stepney has committed to the Chippewas as a running back but is open to switching sides if things don't go according to plan. He chose coach Jim McElwain's group over schools such as Temple, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Syracuse, Boston College, Indiana and a variety of Mid-American Conference schools.
The deciding factor for his decision? Belief.
"If a college ever doubted my speed or my ability, I never let it get to me because I know who I am," he said. "I know who I can be and how I can play and that’s why I love Central because they never once doubted me."
Any time Stepney needed anything, one of the coaches was there to help him out. He appreciated the coaching staff's efforts and how they made him a top priority throughout the recruiting process. Where other schools had their doubts about his versatility, Central Michigan saw his light shining. The Chippewa coaching staff made it clear that they wanted him, and now they have him.
"(Coach McElwain) always talked about family, always checked in on me, made sure I was good with everything," Stepney said. "Made sure if I needed anything that I was good. Coach Cummings, the whole coaching staff making sure I’m good and checking in on me and that’s just what I love, the family part."
Upon graduating high school next year, Stepney will join a loaded running back room that should feature the likes of Kobe Lewis, Lew Nichols and a trio of incoming 3-star 2020 recruits. Though it will be competitive in the backfield, the ability for Stepney to play at a high level on either side of the field makes him that much more valuable.
He'll bring a blend of speed and power, mixing the ability to change direction with the ability to run through a defender in his way. His instincts, given that he plays on both sides of the ball, are special in the fact that he has a knack for knowing where opponents will be before they get there.
In Stepney, Central Michigan is getting a jack-of-all-trades. How it chooses to use him is anyone's guess right now but based on the priority placed on getting him, it's clear that someone saw him as a must-have.
While offensive coordinator Charlie Frye will likely get him to start, don't be surprised in the future if defensive coordinator Robb Akey gets Stepney on the field in his scheme as well.