Doug Steeves is being remembered as Brandon’s father of football by coaches and former players across the city.
The longtime former football coach and ex-athletic director of Brandon University passed away Monday morning at the age of 80, leaving a remarkable legacy in the sport after starting all three high school programs in the Wheat City.
"Any kid who has put on football equipment in Brandon has Doug Steeves to thank," said local high school football coach and family friend Kevin Grindey. "That’s his legacy that is going to go on. Some kid is going to put on a football helmet next year for the first time and may not know who Doug Steeves is, but he is certainly going to be the reason for it ...
"Without question he is the father of football in Brandon and he’s the reason there is football here. He has had a tremendous impact on past and future generations to come."
Grindey played for Steeves as a member of the Crocus Plainsmen and later took over from Steeves as head coach of the Vincent Massey Vikings in 1997, before turning over the head coaching duties to Steeves’ son Mike in 2009.
Grindey said Doug Steeves is the reason he became a coach after his playing career ended.
"I think Doug’s just been such an inspiration for me as a coach and you always like to think you coach how you were coached and Doug was just a really caring person who cared so much about the kids and so much about the game," Grindey said. "I learned a lot from him as a youngster and then as a player for him and then (when Steeves) coached the coaches at Massey, so I just always tried to be first overall great to the kids ... and that’s what Doug was all about. The game was important, but the kids were always so much more important to him."
Steeves played key roles in establishing the old Brandon University football program and the Brandon Krugers club team, before moving on to start the high school programs at Neelin, Crocus Plains and Vincent Massey. Steeves coached the Crocus Plainsmen to the Winnipeg High School Football League championship title in 1987 and was later inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Manitoba Football Hall of Fame in 2013 in the builders category. All three current high school head coaches in the city — Mike Steeves at Massey, Kevin Boyd at Crocus Plains and Robert Cullen at Neelin — played for Steeves at one time.
"He was a very influential coach who guided a lot of young men in a great deal of directions," said Cullen, who played for Steeves at Crocus and moved on to play U.S. college football before returning home to coach Neelin in 2005.
Steeves spent more than four decades coaching football in Brandon, starting programs that have produced a half dozen professional players in the CFL and the NFL, from the likes of former CFLers Craig Hendrickson and Glenn Harper out of Neelin, Derek Sholdice and current Hamilton Tiger-Cat Landon Rice from Crocus Plains and CFLer Chris Bauman and NFLer Israel Idonije out of Vincent Massey.
Grindey said the Vikings’ coaches want to honour the gridiron guru’s legacy by naming the school’s football field after him. A memorial service for Steeves is tentatively planned for Saturday.