march 2011

joe steffy
Joe Steffy: Clearing the path for Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside

A Winner Wherever He Went

Joe Steffy

April 3, 1926-May 21, 2011

Joe Steffy, called by his West Point football coach Earl "Red" Blaik "one of the best guards in Academy history," died of a heart ailment at St. Luke's-Cornwall Hospital's Newburgh campus on May 21. Steffy played both offense and defense on Army's 1945 and 1946 undefeated teams under coach Blaik. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. His Army jersey number 61 was retired in 2009, becoming the fourth Army player to have that honor. The others are Davis, Blanchard and Pete Dawkins, the 1958 Heisman winner.

Born on April 3, 1926, in Chattanooga, TN, Joseph Benton Steffy Jr. played college football at a time when transfer rules were nonexistent. "I grew up wanting to go to Tennessee," Steffy told a reporter in a 2009 interview. "But I never thought they'd have me. They recruited me pretty aggressively, though. And I loved my time there." At the U of T he was a standout on an undefeated Volunteers team that lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl. Then he transferred to West Point and immediately stepped into the starting lineup on offense and defense.

Steffy played for the unbeaten Army teams of 1945 and 1946 and then was named captain of the 1947 team, which lost twice. At Army, he was the guard who cleared the path for Heisman winner Doc Blanchard (the workhorse fullback known as "Mr. Inside") and Glenn Davis (Blanchard's swift "Mr. Outside" counterpart at halfback)

In his one season at Tennessee and three at West Point, Steffy played on teams that lost only three games. He was a first-team all-American in 1947, when he became the second recipient of the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

jo steffy
Army coach Earl 'Red' Blaik with his star guard, Joe Steffy

Standing 5 feet 10 inches and weighing in at 190 pounds, Steffy played guard on offense and as a down lineman on defense. In his memoir The Red Blaik Story, Blaik recalled Steffy's ability to deliver a crushing blow while opening up holes for his running backs. In the 1947 game against Navy, Blaik said, "Joe took out an end with one of the two most devastating blocks in my memory." Blaik used that block as a training video.

Asked about his most memorable game in an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999, Steffy recalled not an Army game but a 0-0 battle against Alabama during his first year in college.

"I told 'em, Tennessee and Alabama," Steffy said. "You determined who won that game by the number of teeth you had left when the game was over."

Steffy graduated from West Point in 1949 and married the former Ann Brown in April 1950. His best man was John Trent, the captain of Army's 1949 football team (he played end) and a fellow Tennessean.

Two months later, the Korean War began. Lt. John Trent was killed in action near the port of Wonsan in November 1950. A month after that, Lieutenant Steffy was struck in the foot by a grenade while in combat. Suffering from frostbite as well, he was evacuated to Japan from the port of Hungnam and received a Bronze Star.

Steffy coached the Army freshman football team in the early 1950s, then owned an auto dealership in Newburgh, NY. He was a regular at Army football games for many years and spoke to Army's players about the times when West Point ruled college football.

In addition to his son, of Newburgh, Steffy is survived by his sisters, Florence DeGozzaldi of Deer Isle, Me., and Ellen Waggoner of Huntsville, Ala.; and three grandsons. He wife died in 2004.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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