MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football safety Shawn Steele II recently sat down with USAJaguars.com to discuss what his journey to South Alabama, what the defense needs to do this weekend against Alcorn State and who the biggest influence on his life has been, among other things.
Steele II, a senior from Arlington, Texas., joined the program this summer after concluding a four-year career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Last season, Steele II finished third on the team with 28 total stops, adding four passes broken up and an interception to help UAPB go 4-1 after advancing to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game in the spring of 2021. As a junior, Steele II was a second-team all-league selection after totaling 46 tackles, three interceptions and 18 pass break ups, adding two fumble recoveries, while as a sophomore with the Lions, he recorded 67 total tackles — leading the team with 50 unassisted stops — including 7½ for loss, two interceptions and six additional passes broken up.
You transferred to South Alabama after a four-year career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. What did you take away from your time at UAPB?
“I really enjoyed the atmosphere there, and I was really blessed to be able to play SWAC [Southwestern Athletic Conference] football and for a HBCU [Historically Black College and University]. Being able to come here to South was a blessing and I’m very glad to be here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I thank Coach [Kane] Wommack for everything.”
What do you like most about playing the safety position?
“I like that I’m able to hit and be as physical as I can be.”
What do you like most about playing under Coach Kane Wommack and Coach Korey Batoon’s “SwarmD” defense?
“The thing that I like most is the fact that we play together and play as a unit. There isn’t any selfishness and everyone plays as one. That’s the way you need to be on defense. We currently rank in the top 10 in the country in defense.”
When did you arrive on campus and how has the transition been?
“I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in June. Everything has gone well and I really enjoy it here. Coming from a HBCU [Historically Black College and University] and FCS [Football Championship Subdivision] program, it’s a blessing being able to play at this level.”
How have you improved since arriving here in Mobile and what are some areas you want to focus on improving during the remainder of the season?
“I’ve improved my eating habits and been able to better maintain my body weight. Just being around my teammates has also helped me be a better ‘me’. They make me better. I need to get better at my eye-discipline and be a little more physical out on the field. Coming here, I lacked speed, so I need to work on that as well.”
What do you feel are some of the strengths of the defensive unit?
“The defensive line. I really feel that we are strong at all three levels. We play together as one unit. I don’t feel that there’s a weak link on our defensive unit. Our whole defense is strong and powerful.”
While you are in your first season with the program, what type of leadership role have you tried to take on being someone who has four years of experience at the collegiate level?
“I haven’t had a chance to be a vocal leader, but I try to be a leader on the field by playing fast. I just keep everybody level-headed and their spirits high.”
What do you see as your role in the defense?
“I feel like the coaches are able to play me anywhere, either at cornerback, safety or in the nickel. I feel that I’m a ‘plug-in’ piece.”
What are some things the defense needs to do in order to be successful against Alcorn State?
“This week, we need to tackle better and play with better eye discipline. We need to finish in a dominant position on the ball carrier, and keep flying around and playing physical so that we can get to the ball.”
How do you feel the team has progressed through the first two games this season?
“I thought we looked pretty good in the first game, but we started off slow in the second. We were able to end the game well on both sides of the ball, though, and was able to get the win. Wins are hard to come by, so I feel that we are progressing every week.”
What do you feel the defense and the team can take away from last weekend’s win at Bowling Green?
“We need to do better with our eye discipline and tackling, while starting faster.”
Talk to me about your journey to South Alabama and what factored into your decision to come here?
“I wanted to play in the FBS [Football Bowl Subdivision], I had a couple offers from some FCS schools but I wasn’t very interested in those offers because I wanted to play at a higher level. I know I’m a good ball player and I wanted to test my skills at this level. Coach Wommack and Coach Batoon offered me and I committed on the spot.”
You already hold a degree. What is it in and what do you want to do with it after your football career?
“I have a bachelor’s degree in physical education. I want to coach and teach at the high school level. I already have some things set up. One of my old defensive back coaches is a head coach at a high school where I’m from, and he told me to come see him when my football career is done.”
When and how did you get involved with the game?
“I was originally a basketball player, but decided to switch over to football in high school. I found out that I was really good during my junior year so I just stuck with it. I led the defense in picks and was second-team all-conference. From there, I just kept my head down.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“I like to study film, play basketball and just work out. I also like to spend time with my family.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
“My granddad mainly. He’s been with me this whole time and he just wants the best for me. I do it for my family also, but mainly my granddad. He is always calling and checking to see how I’m doing. He stays on top of me because he wants to see me at the highest level. He’s been a big part of my life.”
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