A legend is honored: The Celebration of Life for Wayne Steffenhagen

Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 11:35 PM CDT
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WESTON, Wis. (WSAW) -Longtime D.C. Everest Football and Track coach Wayne Steffenhagen, who passed away in February, was honored at the field named after him with a celebration of life on Saturday night.

His family received a standing ovation as they walked onto the field. Attendees included both former and current Everest Football players and coaches, rival coaches, and the community at large.

Everest Football alum and three-time NFL Pro Bowl QB Dave Krieg never played under Steffenhagen, but still made the trek from Phoenix to pay his respects.

“Well I think it’s important to show I think the importance and the impact that a high school football coach and his wife Sondra can have on a community, and all these guys that showed up here for this memorial tonight.

1987 Everest Football alum Matt Sheldon, who now works in the Denver Broncos front office, played a key role in putting the event together. It was a labor of love for him.

“Well in my life, just like so many of the athletes that he mentored in both football and track he taught us life skills. Life skills that we carried forward, and we pass on to our children and our colleagues.

The man known as “Coach Steff” didn’t win five state championships, 16 conference titles, and nearly 300 games by accident.

“You had to come ready every single day to play your best, to be your best,” says Tim Strehlow, current Everest Football head coach who also played and coached under Steffenhagen. “He demanded your best, and if you didn’t (bring it), he definitely let you know about it.”

“He never let a little thing that we did wrong or that was done wrong go unnoticed,” says Mike Salters, who coached alongside Steffenhagen for decades.

The success created a legacy that was impossible to ignore.

“You know every time you talk about Everest Football, you’re reminded of what tradition was all about and what he brought to the program,” Strehlow explains.

Even for those that never played for him, like 2020 graduate Alex Stumpner, the aura was always around Steffenhagen.

“We were hitting the gym starting for football, and Coach Steff was in there,” Stumpner explains. “I just remember looking at (another teammate) each other like ‘Oh my god, that’s Steffenhagen.’

“Like, just being in the same room was like being in the same room as god.”

But his lasting impact is so much deeper than between the white lines.

“If all it was was about being a good football player, you had totally missed the message,” says Todd Bohm, who played and coached under Steffenhagen. “There was so much more about being a good person, show up every day, do the best you can, work hard, and those are lessons that are going to carry over to your life no matter how old you are.”

“You know I think we’d be remiss to say it was just football or track,” Salters says. “My daughter would tell you that he was a big motivator for her.”

“You look at the stuff that he would do to get to know kids. He would even take pictures of kids to make sure that he would get an idea of who they are and make sure that he could call them by their first name,” Strehlow explains. “I think that’s huge.”

Above anything, it was the man being celebrated on Saturday night.

“To me, he was almost like a father like figure,” says Bohm.

Something those involved in making the celebration happen believed he deserves, and that they need to heal.

“I know what D.C. Everest Football means to me, and I don’t think I could ever fathom what D.C. Everest Football means to him,” Stumper says. “And I think that it’s owed to him.”

“Now I think that his family deserves this,” says Strehlow. “They need to have some more closure with the community, and I honestly think the community needs this.”

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