Saddleback Valley News - STEVE STENSTROM ENTERS ET HALL OF FAME
BY MIRIN FADER / STAFF WRITER – OC Register/Saddleback Valley News
When Steve Stenstrom arrived at El Toro High as a second-semester freshman in 1987, he quickly earned a nickname.
“He was known at the school as the quarterback from Texas,” said his father, Pete Stenstrom. The family moved from Plano, Texas to Lake Forest when Pete’s job transferred him to the area.
Stenstrom’s classmates soon learned he had a strong arm, as he played baseball that spring. That would transfer over to the football field, as he morphed into a prolific passer for the varsity team, passing for 4,604 yards as the Chargers’ starting quarterback in 1988 and ’89.
“He was never the most gifted athlete, but he accomplished things most wouldn’t because of determination, toughness and just absolute intelligence that cant be measured,” said Bob Bosanko, who coached Stenstrom on the sophomore team and later served as varsity running backs coach during Stenstrom’s senior year.
“He was an unbelievable leader,” Bosanko said.
Stenstrom, who went on to set 11 records as the starting quarterback at Stanford and eventually competed for several NFL teams, was inducted into El Toro Football’s Hall of Fame at the annual El Toro Football Golf Tournament on July 16tth.
“I’m completely honored and humbled,” said Stenstrom, who said he is grateful for the mentorship from Bosanko and former El Toro head coach Bob Johnson.
“I’m so grateful for all that my parents did for me along the way, to get me into the sport early,” Stenstrom continued. “They gave me opportunities to grow as both a student and an athlete.”
Stenstrom is El Toro’s fourth inductee, as he joins Murle Sango (2013), Mike McLain (2014) and Jeremy Hogue (2015).
“He had a tremendous impact on the program,” said El Toro’s current coach Mike Mayoral. “Anyime you go into our weight room, and all along our wall are our all-CIF players and there he is, right in the middle of all of those guys. He’s definitely somebody our guys look to and want to try to emulate.”
In the 1989 season, Stenstrom completed 178 of 270 for 2,830 yards, to go with 25 touchdowns, guiding El Toro to the Southern Section Division III championship game.
Though Stenstrom never sought the limelight, his teammates followed him. He was quick to give credit to others, whether it be the offensive line, his receivers or the defense putting him in good situations.
“People respected him,” said Johnson, now head coach at Mission Viejo. “You couldn’t find a nicer kid than Steve and a very good player.”
Stenstrom became Stanford’s starting quarterback from 1991 to ’94, breaking 11 school and seven Pacific-10 Conference records. He threw for 10,531 career passing yards, placing him first in both the Stanford and then-Pac-10 record books in 1995, and seventh on the NCAA’s all-time passing list.
He also set school and conference records for career total offense (9,825 yards) while ranking second with 72 career touchdown passes. For his effort at Stanford, the university will honor Stenstrom and seven others by inducting them into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in September.
After earning a degree in Public Policy in ’94, Stenstrom was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round of 1995 NFL Draft.
He played in five NFL seasons for the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers from 1996 to ‘99. He then played with the Detroit Lions in 2000 before signing with the Denver Broncos in 2001, retiring from pro football shortly thereafter.
“Sometimes I have to kind of pinch myself and remember that it was actually real along the way, because it was such a childhood dream being lived out at every point,” Stenstrom said.
“Looking back on it now,” Stenstrom continued, “I just shake my head and wonder, ‘How did I get a chance to experience all of that?’ I just feel incredibly blessed and incredibly humble whenever that happens.”
Stenstrom and his wife, Lori, who was an All-American and NCAA champion swimmer at Stanford, have four children.
For the past six years, Stenstrom has served as the President of Pro Athletes Outreach, a ministry to pro athletes whose mission is to unite a community of pros and couples to grow as disciples of Jesus and positively impact their spheres of influence, according to the organization’s website.
Four years ago, the organization launched TheIncrease.com to create a forum where pro athletes can connect with fans in the context of faith.
“Steve Stenstrom is every bit as good of a husband and a parent as he ever was a football player,” said Bosanko, who considers Stenstrom like one of his own. “I’m proud of him as much for his accomplishments off the field than what he accomplished on the field.”
Steve Stenstrom on the importance of coaching, and advice for student-athletes who aim to play in the pros
“I’m just such a believer that coaches occupy the most important role, or one of the most important roles in our culture today,” Stenstrom said. "The impact and influence of a coach on a young athlete is so extraordinary that back in, I think it was the late ’80’s, that Billy Graham said the two most important words in America today are “Coach Says,” because that relationship carries such a heavy weight. I would just encourage all coaches to not retire in the work they’re doing, and to recognize how important they are to the young people that they’re impacting along the way."
“Having a destination in mind, whether we call it a goal or an objective, is incredibly important and I would never want anybody to not dream the greatest dreams they can dream,” Stenstrom said. “But I think one of the things I look back on, and I’m glad I learned this I think early enough that I didn’t miss too much, is, don’t miss the journey and the process to get there. If you’re too focused on the destination, and you miss the day in and day out journey, you miss so much of the real gold along the way. The treasure’s not waiting for you at the end. The treasure’s uncovered in the process. And you might just find yourself at the end of it going, ‘Wow I attained some objective that I set out to accomplish.’ And if you don’t get there, you haven’t fallen short, because the victory is in the trying.”