Air Force's Weston Steelhammer doesn't take Lott Trophy, but he's happy with the many boxes he's checked

December 11, 2016 Updated: December 11, 2016 at 10:21 pm
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Weston Steelhammer was one of four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy that was captured by Michigan's Jabrill Peppers on Sunday night. (Photo courtesy of Air Force athletics.

Weston Steelhammer stumped himself, and he couldn't let it go.

The Air Force safety - one of the most decorated defenders in team history - was trying to quote a motivational saying and he couldn't piece together the right words. The quote itself was inconsequential to his conversation with the reporter from The Gazette, but Steelhammer refused to allow this detail to remain unfinished.

Minutes after the interview, he sent the quote.

That's Steelhammer, who was one of four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy that was captured by Michigan's Jabrill Peppers on Sunday night. He doesn't leave anything incomplete, and because of that he's content with a collegiate career that is nearly finished.

"I wouldn't say there's really much left; that I wasn't able to check the box," Steelhammer said. "I've had a great four years here and I wouldn't trade it for the world. If I had it to do again I'd do it the same for sure."

Steelhammer became the first Falcons player to earn first-team all-Mountain West honors three times. He's tied for the program's all-time lead with 17 interceptions. He's led the team in tackles two straight years. He can count the number of practices he's missed because of injuries during his career on one hand.

These accomplishments coupled with off-the-field charitable work, academic achievements and character earned Steelhammer a spot in Los Angeles in his full military dress on Sunday night next to some of the nation's top defenders (Alabama's Jonathan Allen and Southern Cal's Adoree' Jackson were the other finalists) for an award that recognizes the most impactful defender in and away from football.

"I'm obviously in good company," Steelhammer said. "It's definitely an honor."

So, what comes next for Steelhammer? What boxes are yet unchecked?

He'll lead the Falcons into the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30 against South Alabama. He's set to graduate in May and has received the job of logistics officer. He doesn't know where he'll go, and the particular job depends largely on what logistics challenges a particular base presents.

But more football could also be in his future, and rules changes from this past summer have opened that door for service academy graduates to pursue pro sports immediately; at least as of now.

"If it's meant to be it's meant to be," Steelhammer said. "I think the stars have aligned for us this year, giving us this opportunity. If the opportunity presents itself definitely I will pursue it.

"It's hard to think about my life without football."

Most draft sites project Steelhammer as a sixth- or seventh-round pick this spring. His size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) is ideal for an NFL safety. He'll have plenty of film to show him delivering hits and displaying a knack for the ball that comes from his own intensity and a skill set honed as a multisport standout who played basketball and had an opportunity to play Division I baseball.

He'll perform for scouts at Air Force's pro day, where eyes will be on his 40-yard time (he's been clocked in the upper 4.5s) and other measurables. He knows those factors won't determine everything, but he'll put in the work after the season to put himself in the best position to impress.

So it will continue for him. A goal at a time, checking boxes everywhere he goes.

If he sounds like a walking inspirational poster, it's because that's how he chooses to present himself to the media. Teammates like Jalen Robinette insist he has a strong sense of humor, and an internal fire is evident as he patrols the middle of the field. But he resembles a coach with his soft, cliché-filled talk when the cameras and recorders are on him.

And as for that motivational quote Steelhammer couldn't quite remember, it said "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

No wonder he wanted to send it. That sentiment pretty well wraps up what Steelhammer stands for, how he came to stand on a stage with some of the nation's best on Sunday night and how he stands a legitimate shot at pursuing the sport at the next level.

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