There was only one Alabama offensive lineman that did not commit a penalty or allow a sack all season.
No, it’s not the Rimington Award winner Barrett Jones. Not Chance Warmack, who is widely considered the Crimson Tide’s best lineman. It’s not even D.J. Fluker, the vocal leader of the bunch, or Cyrus Kouandjio who is charged with protecting quarterback AJ McCarron’s blindside.
It’s right guard Anthony Steen. Steen has started 25 games at Alabama while playing in 40 contests. He is a two-year starter that helped Alabama rank 16th nationally and second in the SEC in rushing in 2012 at 227.5 yards per game. Steen helped block for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2012 (Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon).
“Physical,” “technician” and “bull” are just a few words Steen’s teammates and coaches used to describe him. Roommate Cyrus Kouandjio called him a “clean and funny guy,” that is allowed to get away with being on his own island because “he’s that good.”
“He’s a guy that just shows up every day and brings his lunch pail and hard hat and has an extremely great work ethic,” said offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
A quiet, shy guy, Steen isn’t particularly fond of the media. He’s of the old adage, “be seen and not heard,” because that’s how he grew up in Lambert, Miss., with a population of 1,620. His graduating class was made up of about 40 students and he played sports with the same friends from grade school to graduating high school.
Naturally, people in Mississippi tend to be fans of Ole Miss or Mississippi State, as did Steen. He grew up following Ole Miss and didn’t get serious about Alabama until his sophomore year of high school.
“Around that time, I started looking into Alabama’s tradition and history,” Steen said. “I didn’t really make up my mind until I took my official visit. That’s when I feel in love with this place.”
Steen’s decision to return for his senior season gives the Tide stability on the offensive line. With the departures of Jones, Warmack and Fluker, Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio will be the only two returning starters. Steen said improving his draft status and getting his degree were the motivating factors for returning, as he is set to graduate this spring. Still, Kouandjio said Steen should have gotten more consideration as a top NFL draft pick.
“He should go in the first round easy,” Kouandjio said. “Like top 10. He’s allowed zero sacks and had zero penalties. Plus, he’s a bull on the offensive line. He’ll block you 5 yards down the field and pancake you.”
Earlier this season, Warmack said Steen is “better than me” and “I don’t know why he is so overlooked.” Warmack is considered to be a top five draft pick.
“You can tell that he gets a tremendous amount of respect from the offensive line for Chance to say that,” Kouandjio said. “People outside of our locker room may not see it, but Steen is the real deal.”
While he’s not a vocal leader, Steen’s experience will be key in helping develop cohesiveness amongst the new line. Mike Johnson took Steen under his wing during Steen’s freshman year and now Steen is returning the favor with linemen Isaac Luatua. The two have forged a relationship and compete in everything. Luatua said, “I beat him in everything,” but the young player respects Steen and his hard work.
“It’s great because he’s a veteran and for him to see something in me raises my confidence,” Luatua said. “I see how much he puts in to it and it makes me want to work just as hard.”