Currently, Pres./CEO of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)
32 years coaching football including: 5 yrs as coach at the Univ. of CO and 1 with the U.S. Naval Academy
Began NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers in 1978
Helped guide New England Patriots in their 1985 Super Bowl
Offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans in 1999 (helped guide them to the 2000 Super Bowl)
Offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2000
Worked with the Denver Broncos, Minnestora Vikings, Houston Oilers, and the Buffalo Bills
ONE YARD SHORT – THE 2000 SUPER BOWL
Les was the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans for the 1999 season. The owner had made it plain that, after two straight years of 8-8 seasons, it was the playoffs or pink slips for the coaches. Their jobs depended on making the playoffs. The Titans were 13-3 at the end of the regular season, but with the second best record in their division, they had to be satisfied with a wild-card slot. They won their first playoff game against Buffalo by a touchdown in the last 16 seconds of the game. The next week they beat the Indianapolis Colts and then won the AFC Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars 33-14 (scoring 16 points in four and a half minutes).
Exhausted with no bye week, the wild card Titans headed to Atlanta for Super Bowl XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams. The third quarter ended with the Rams ahead 16-0. But in the fourth quarter the Titans held the ball for 13 minutes running 32 plays to only 6 for St. Louis. By the two-minute warning, the game was tied 16-16. Then disaster for the Titans as the Rams’ Kurt Warner threw downfield to Isaac Bruce who sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown. The Titans had done last shot and Steve McNair worked them 87 yards in 1:49. The Titans were on the ten yard line with six seconds left in the Super Bowl. As the offensive coordinator, Les called the final play. They executed the play perfectly, but Mike Jones of the Rams made the tackle of his life, wrapping up the legs of Kevin Dyson, making a final surge with the ball impossible. As Dyson fell to the ground, his right arm thrust toward the goal line and he came down 18 inches short as time ran out.
Les couldn’t keep the one inescapable thought out of his mind: “I was the offensive coordinator who called the play that came up short.” Pouring out his frustration to the Lord, Les then quieted his spirit and listened. The Lord spoke, “Les, the team fell one yard short of victory tonight. Do you know how many people out there are one yard short of eternal victory? I expect you to go tell them.”
FROM DEFEAT TO VICTORY
Coach Les Steckel has persevered through all the successes and failures that God has brought him through -- from being a Golden Gloves boxing champion to being a US Marine Corps infantry officer in the Vietnam War; from coaching college and NFL teams to finally becoming the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Through his varied careers there are a few things that have helped sustain him. He's persevered by staying focused on what Jesus did on the cross and also by knowing that God is in control.
Les shares that most men get their identities from their jobs. Les faced hardship when he was fired on eight different occasions. Les says that every time he got fired it was painful, and it didn't get easier, but he persevered. He learned to get his identity from Christ and knowing that God has the future in store. He says football doesn’t build character, it reveals it.
BROKENNESS – 13 VERY DIFFICULT MONTHS IN 1990
Just before Christmas 1988 when Les lost his job with the Patriots, he took the advice of the New England coach, Raymond Berry, to get some counseling. Les had always said his priorities were faith, family and football – in that order. But he learned the real list was me, myself and I. He was willing to sacrifice anything and anyone on the altar of his hungry ambition.
Raised by perfectionist parents, Les was on a mission to prove he could do everything better than anyone else. That agenda always left destruction in his wake. After a few sessions with his counselor, it all came out. On one hand, the truth hurt; on the other he was able to face it on football terms. The difference was he was disciplining his spirit instead of his body. He worked on breaking himself of the illusion that he was the center of the universe. Les realized God was breaking him like a wild stallion standing on its hooves, kicking and braying. If he was ever going to run the race the way He designed Les, then he had to let Him break him and retrain him, and yield to His reins.
Les then spent a football season as an assistant coach at Brown University in 1989. Then that head coach was fired, and Les was out of a job. He went on unemployment and went back on active duty in the Marine Reserves to pay the mortgage. Every day he asked God to humble him and to help him learn to be totally dependent on God for his future. Les desperately missed coaching. When he offered to help coach the local high school team, he was turned down. Five years before he had been coaching in a Super Bowl, now the he couldn’t get his call returned by a high school coach.
Realizing that he may never coach again, Les and his wife decided they wanted to move from Boston back to Boulder, CO, where he had had his first coaching job. He asked friends to let him know of any job possibilities. A dear friend felt that Les should make contact with Coach Bill McCartney, then head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes. They had a meeting in New York City, but McCartney had no openings.
On Christmas Eve as Les was loading the kids in the car for the candlelight service, he realized this was his third straight Christmas of unemployment (though he had had jobs in between Christmases). And while his spirits were at their lowest, his prayer life had never been better. Then the phone rang. It was Coach McCartney calling from Miami – a week before his team won the national collegiate championship – saying at that moment God had put it on his heart to offer Les a coaching job!
In the new year, the Steckel family headed back to Boulder, CO, for a fresh start. After a year in the wilderness, a year in the furnace, a year of rejection and humility, God had restored their joy on Christmas Eve. Several years later he went back to the NFL.
FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES
In 2003, when Les was working with the Buffalo Bills, the whole coaching staff got fired after the season. Les asked God if He still wanted him to coach after more than 30 years. The Lord gave him the scripture Luke 5:10 that says "I will make you fishers of men." Les wondered what that meant for him, and God reminded Les of a 1999 prayer journal entry that he wrote which said that Les would be in ministry in five years. The year 2004 was the fifth year. He worked at his church for a year, and later, the presidency of the FCA was offered to him.
On March 1, 2005, Les became the seventh president/CEO of the FCA. His extensive involvement with FCA dates back to 1972 when, as a college football coach, he attended his first FCA conference. In the 30-plus years since, Steckel has served as a huddle leader, platform speaker, camp dean and football clinician at various FCA camps across the nation. He led Bible studies throughout his NFL career and served regularly as a guest speaker for FCA events.
Les feels he's on a tremendous team with FCA. Professional football is a winning and losing business, the priority is to win. In FCA, life and death are the priority, nurturing lives for Jesus Christ. There are over 300 offices in the country and 196 camps. FCA is the only ministry in 6,600 campuses, and they are also the only ministry that focuses on ministering to children ages 8 through 12 through FCA's power camps.
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