Small-town star shines on Alabama's big stage
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Nov 20, 2013 | 6218 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three-year starting guard Anthony Steen with quarterback AJ McCarron after a big win over LSU. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Three-year starting guard Anthony Steen with quarterback AJ McCarron after a big win over LSU. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Billy Steen recalls thinking his son Anthony wouldn’t stay at Alabama.

Anthony grew up in the small town of Clarksdale, Miss., and graduated with a class of 45 students from Lee Academy. So Billy wondered how his football-playing son would adjust at a university with more than 25,000 students.

“He wasn’t a loner growing up, but he was a quiet young man,” Billy said. “To be honest, I never thought he stayed there. But to his credit, he stayed there and fit in.”

Now a third-year starting guard at Alabama, Steen has adjusted well and become a mainstay on the Crimson Tide’s offensive line.

And Billy has seen the growth in his son.

“He’s grown to adapt to the situations he’s in,” Billy said. “At first, when he got there, he didn’t like interviews. Now, if he doesn’t like them, it doesn’t bother him as bad because he does them and sounds good at it. It’s made him grow up and realize there is a bigger world outside of our small community.”

This season, Steen has allowed just two sacks in 286 pass attempts and just one in the last nine games. He anchors the interior of the Tide’s offensive line that ranks ninth nationally in sacks allowed (0.90 per game)

“Anthony’s played really, really well for us all year long,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “He’s been really consistent in his performance. I think that a lot of the players respect him. He certainly sets a good example every day for other players to emulate, which I think is a critical piece of being a good leader.”

Steen stepped into the leadership role after 2012 All-America linemen D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones moved to the NFL. While Steen isn’t the most vocal of leaders, Saban said he believes he influences the offensive line a great deal.

“I also thinks he cares in a very quiet way, in his way, about trying to help the other guys develop, which I also think is a very important part of being a good leader,” Saban said. “Even though he may not be a rah-rah guy in a lot of ways, I do think he has a significant impact on that group and he has been a good leader for us on this team.”

On Saturday, Steen will play his final home game. He said it just recently hit him that it’ll be his final time running out of the tunnel.

“It really hadn’t until, I think it was right before practice, I heard, I think it was AJ, say something about it’s our last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium,” Steen said. “It hit me then. But I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been just trying to focus on the game.

"I know it’ll probably be emotional for my parents, especially my mom. She’ll probably cry, knowing her. Hopefully, we’ll just go out there and have a good game.”

Steen said his most significant memory from playing in Bryant-Denny came during the 2009 championship run, his redshirt season, during the Tennessee game when Terrence Cody blocked two field goals to steal a win.

“I remember how bad the guys wanted it,” Steen said. “How bad they wanted to accomplish their goal that year. I think that kind of got the guys over the hump right there, when everybody realized and bought into the process and knew that we could do it. I think right then everybody knew we could go all the way.”

Steen said he expects Saturday to get a little emotional.

“Probably when I’m out on the field,” he said. “But after the game, I probably will hide it a little bit from my parents. I know my mom will probably bring it up and want to talk about it. She’ll probably be crying. I’ll try to hide it from her.”

Billy said it will be a “heartfelt afternoon” for the entire family as their son’s journey nears its end.

“Yeah, probably so,” Billy said. “Growing up, he was told he didn’t have a chance to do what he was doing by a few people. He was told he wouldn’t have a chance to play at Alabama. He’s been able to become one of the best players in the nation at his position. It will be a very heartfelt afternoon for us.”
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