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CEDAR RAPIDS — The year that may have helped Dylan Stepleton’s college football career the most was the one in which he didn’t play.
The Coe College senior cornerback spent the 2012 season at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. That’s one of the best JUCO programs around, and Stepleton never saw the field, red-shirting instead.
“That was really an eye-opener,” said the Tipton native. “That was probably the best (football) experience I’ve ever had in my life. It was unbelievable. We won a national championship the year I was there. We had so many great players on both sides of the ball. We had 15 or 16 Division I guys.”
Stepleton left Iowa Western after that year, looking for a place he actually could play. He didn’t find many takers.
“Wartburg recruited me out of high school,” he said. “But after I told them I was going to Iowa Western, they said ‘You are making the biggest mistake of your life.’ So that bridge was pretty much burned. That’s the Wartburg way, I guess.”
Luckily, assistant coach (now first-year head coach) Tyler Staker had kept in contact with Stepleton. Coe turned out to be his new home.
What a perfect match it has been. Stepleton will graduate with a strength and conditioning degree at the end of the school year.
Coe’s football program has benefitted from a guy who has five interceptions the first three games of this season. Yes, five.
And that includes pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks. Stepleton had three interceptions last week in Coe’s Iowa Conference opener against Loras.
Two weeks in a row, he has been named to D3football.com’s National Team of the Week. The Kohawks (3-0) play Saturday afternoon at Nebraska Wesleyan.
“I don’t think about it really at all,” Stepleton said of his massive early season production. “It truly is one game at a time. We’ve got a great team this year, a great defense. The line puts pressure on the quarterback and makes it throw it early. I just benefit from that.”
Stepleton has just one less pick than his entire team had last season. Coincidentally, he had five interceptions two years ago as a sophomore, too.
An all-state DB, he also played quarterback at Wilton High School and racked up over 2,000 yards passing and rushing as a senior.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said, when asked if being a former QB has helped him as a DB. “I understand the coverages, what the (offense) is trying to do. So that has helped a little.”
But he goes back to his defensive teammates as the main reason for his success.
“It’s just the D-line pressure,” he said. “They’re doing a great job. Honestly, we’re not doing anything different defensively than we’ve done before.”
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