Markese Stepp is a former four-star running back from Indianapolis, Indiana. Now a freshman at USC, he looks to add his name to the list of heralded backs that have passed through the Coliseum. Uyvette Stepp was riding shotgun while her son was being recruited and while Markese may have been driving, Uyvette had the map in hand making sure her son took all the right turns.
With fall camp underway and the season nearly upon us, USC fans won’t have long to wait to see the power Markese Stepp can bring to the Trojan run game when pads meet pads.
After now Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ronald Jones II broke multiple records during his time at USC, fans have been anxious to know which running back will step up to the plate and fill Jones’ evasive shoes.
Freshman tailback Stepp certainly has the size and power to break through holes in opponents defensive line.
Standing at 6 feet and weighing in at 230 pounds, Stepp is a much bigger back than USC has seen for the past couple of seasons.
In high school Stepp was the No. 3 ranked running back in the state of Indiana and No. 14 for his position in the nation per 247Sports. Before he flipped to the Trojans, Stepp had committed to play for rival Notre Dame.
Heralded for his strength and his ability to gain yards after being hit, Stepp had racked up offers from 23 programs, including Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, and Tennessee before finally settling on the Irish and eventually USC.
During his two seasons of high school football, Stepp recorded 1,863 rush yards, 29 touchdowns, and averaged 103.5 yards per game.
Stepp’s talent was no secret and with a multitude of Power Five programs knocking on his door, his recruitment was one all high school ball players dream about.
We spoke with Stepp’s mother Uyvette about how the family handled the recruitment process, how a certain coach helped her son come to the decision to play for USC, and the list she created to help mothers of athletes.
Being from Indiana was Notre Dame the family favorite in your household? How did Markese first become interested in USC?
I’m not from Indiana. I’m from Kentucky. Markese was born in Indiana. I grew up a Tennessee fan. Notre Dame was Markese & my husband’s favorite Indiana team but Markese’s overall favorite college football team was Oregon.
He first became interested in USC in March of 2017, when my husband’s former teammate at Miami of Ohio University, Deland McCullough, became the running backs coach at USC. Deland (we call him DMc) while at Indiana University was Markese’s first Division I offer.
Markese had plenty of offers from Division I schools which would have allowed him to stay closer to home, did he always want to go to a west coast school? If not, what drew him there?
When Deland became the USC running backs coach it changed everything. In my opinion Deland was the best college running back coach in the country and I wanted Markese to be coached by the best. It made sense...Deland is family.
What is something that stood out to you from a mother’s perspective, about how USC handled your son’s recruitment?
As a mother, I wanted Markese to be amongst faith based men that not only wanted his talent but genuinely wanted him to be a successful young man on and off the field. Deland drew us to USC but Coach Helton sealed the deal when he gave the academic presentation during our official visit. He could have allowed a member of the admissions department to give the presentation but he didn’t. At no other university did the head coach do that during the recruitment process. It was at that point that I knew USC was the place for my son. Yes, I love the game but the most important thing to me is that my son earns his degree. I believe Coach Helton genuinely wants that for all of his players. His presentation made the most significant impact on me as a mother.
What is some advice you would give to fellow moms of recruited athletes? Is there anything you would suggest they avoid or suggest they do?
A. Be realistic about their athletes ability. Not every recruited athlete is fortunate enough to play Division I. There are plenty of other opportunities to continue to play ball. Don’t put so much pressure on their athletes to be a Division I player. I have a son playing NAIA and one D1...they both earned their scholarships & are amazing young men.
B. Moms need to relax and enjoy the recruitment process with their athletes. It’s fun! Enjoy the road trips, learning more about the game, the process, and the family time.
C. Moms need to stay on top of the grades, have your athlete take the SAT/ACT often and early. Get daily updates of their grades via email or have your student athlete login and show you assignments and grades. Get the email address of all teachers so you can communicate with them when needed.
D. High school college counselors are a great resource but know the NCAA rules for yourself. There is no other person that will represent your student athlete like you, but you must have the knowledge to do so. Do your homework too.
E. Allow your athlete to pick the school. They’ll appreciate you for trusting them.
F. Moms need to make executive decisions on the people and places you allow your athlete to associate wit, because not everyone wants to see them succeed. Have constant conversations about character, choices, and consequences.
G. Moms should understand that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t want to work hard.
H. Football camps expose the unprepared athlete but serve as great exposure for the athlete that comes prepared.
I. Moms, remember you are your athletes most supportive and trustworthy advisor...never doubt your role in the recruitment process. Do whatever you can to help your athlete’s dream become a reasonable reality. I would also suggest that moms avoid allowing their athletes to commit prior to the second semester of their junior year.
Special thanks to Uyvette Stepp for her wonderful interview! Fight On!