Oct. 21, 2011
By Sean Kaveney
Steve Filer knows the importance of doing things the right way. The University of Notre Dame’s sterling reputation as one of the top academic and athletic institutions is what attracted him to South Bend, Ind., in the fall of 2008.
The importance of leadership always has been something that the senior outside linebacker has whole heartedly embraced. He attributes most of his successes as a football player, student and person to the people that have helped him along the way.
Filer believes that the moral standards that he upholds and his sense of priorities can be credited to the guidance given to him by his parents and grandmother. When asked who have been his primary role models in life Filer, without hesitation, mentions his grandmother and parents.
“My grandmother, who works as a pastor, has instilled very good values in me,” Filer says. “And both of my parents support me in everything that I do. So if I do anything, I do it for them.”
A native of Chicago, Ill., Filer attended Mount Carmel High School, a school with a rich tradition of success both on and off the football field. Under the instruction of one of the winningest football coaches in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history, Frank Lenti, Filer also learned how to carry on a tradition of success both on the gridiron and in the classroom.
“Frank Lenti is a legend in Chicago, and a legend in high school football for that matter,” Filer explains. “He helped me mature as a football player, and also helped me realize that football isn’t the only thing out there. Academics must also play a major part in life.”
It seems like more than a coincidence that Filer chose to go from a football program that ranks third all-time in victories in IHSA history, to a football program that ranks third all-time in wins in NCAA Division I football history. Filer will tell you that he knows it sounds clichÃƒÆ’Â©, but the tradition of academic and athletic success is simply what makes Notre Dame so attractive.
Upon his arrival to Notre Dame, Filer sought guidance in some of the veteran members of the football team. He says that players like Maurice Crum Jr., and Scott Smith were key in his development. Smith in particular, who was Filer’s roommate when the team was on the road, proved to be a great role model for him.
“I pretty much fashioned all of my routines after Scott, and he was a very big influence on me,” Filer says. “He was a smart guy who did everything that he was supposed to do and worked hard on every single play.”
Smith’s mental approach to football and his work ethic was not the only thing that stood out to Filer.
“[Smith] was another special teams guy,” Filer says. “He may not have played all that much on defense, but he played a lot on special teams. He took pride in that, and that was the biggest reason why I respected him so much.”
Filer has assumed a similar role. He has led the Irish in special teams tackles in each of the past two seasons. Filer recorded 11 special teams tackles in 2009, and then repeated his performance by notching 11 more in 2010.
Filer understands that you do not have to be an offensive or defensive starter to leave your mark in a football game to put your team in a better position to come away with a win. As he notes, it is more about capitalizing on every opportunity.
“I don’t play too much defense, so special teams is pretty much my thing,” Filer says. “I try to get myself and our players in the right position. It is important to let some of the younger guys know, that you don’t have to just play offense and defense. You can do other things to help the team win, like play on special teams.”
If there is one Irish player that truly understands what it is like playing with and being a teammate of Filer, it is fellow senior linebacker Darius Fleming. Fleming and Filer are often times compared to one another for a number of different reasons including their Chicago upbringing, their similar names and jersey numbers, as well their tenacious and explosive styles of play on the football field. The two knew each another before attending Notre Dame, as they both played prep football in the Chicago area. In fact, Filer attributes part of why he chose to come to school at Notre Dame to Fleming.
“Darius was one of the main reasons why I chose Notre Dame,” Filer remembers. “I actually met him on a college visit and after that he was always in my ear, telling me that Notre Dame was the right choice for me.”
Fleming acknowledges the fact that he did work hard to make Filer his teammate.
“I knew that I would love to play with a guy like Steve,” Fleming says. “So once I committed I tried my best to get him to come here as well.”
The relationship between the two linebackers has grown since they were freshman, and now in their senior seasons, they have found themselves leaders of a very talented Notre Dame defense. Although each has a different leadership style both on and off the field, it cannot be denied that much rides on the shoulders of the two Irish veterans.
“Steve leads with his attitude on and off the field,” Fleming continues. “He is more of a leader by example. People can look up to him for the attitude and energy that he brings every day to practice.”
Filer gladly has taken on the role for himself without much of a second thought. Although he may not be the most vociferous leader in the locker room, he understands fully that a player can lead simply by going about one’s business in the proper way.
“I am pretty much a leader when I have to be,” Filer remarks. “When I see something is wrong I try to make it better just through speaking up or by trying to help the younger players better understand the things that they need to get done.”
The life of an underclassman is made a whole lot easier when they have a dedicated senior with the kind of attitude, ability and experience that Filer brings to the table. Sophomore linebacker Prince Shembo appreciates Filer’s willingness to help younger players develop.
“He is always watching me when I play,” Shembo says. “When I come to the sideline he tells me everything that I did wrong, and what I should do to make it better. And when he gives me advice, I follow it.”
Filer, being the kind of player who tries to make a positive impact on his team with every decision he makes, understands that even after his playing career in an Irish uniform, he can continue to help his team be the best. With the bevy of talented youngsters that are wearing the gold and blue this season, Filer knows that if he can teach them the right way to go about being a student-athlete and that his presence will never truly leave the campus.
“These younger guys will be great players long after we are gone,” Filer explains. “It is important for me to instill in them not only the right way to play defense for this school, but also what the right values are.”
While his parents and grandmother, his high school football coach, and his former and current teammates all have left a transforming impact on him, Filer continues to leave an impression on all those that look up to him. Whether it be a young linebacker, a Notre Dame business school student, or one of the thousands of Irish faithful that pack Notre Dame Stadium each fall that is following in his footsteps, Steve Filer has certainly left his mark on the Irish community.
So it would seem fitting that when asked about what is the greatest thing Notre Dame has provided him, Filer smiles and says that it is the relationships.
“Just being around the team,” he smiles. “Being around my brothers. I would do anything for them.”