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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    It’s good to be No. 1

    Roman Veytsmanassistant sports editor
    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    One stands a diminutive 5-foot-9 and weighs 182 pounds. The other, a hulking man-child, stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 270 pounds.

    One sports a clean cut ‘do, while the other rocks a mullet/dreadlocked look, formerly with a UA logo shaved in the side.

    One is a senior who has been a part of the Wildcat program since John Mackovic. The other joined the team slightly over a month ago.

    For all their differences, senior wide receiver and Texas native Syndric Steptoe and junior-college transfer Louis Holmes, the defensive end from Florida, have their similarities.

    For starters, each wears the No. 1 on the back of his jersey and each played like the No. 1 starter at his position Saturday against Brigham Young.

    Steptoe, the slot receiver in UA head coach Mike Stoops’ offense, was overshadowed last year by starter Mike Thomas, who not only led the Wildcats in catches and receiving yards as a freshman last season, but also had the cool nickname “”Money Mike”” to go with it.

    Although Steptoe’s production only improved in each of his first three seasons, his breakout six-reception, 93-yard performance Saturday cemented his status as quarterback Willie Tuitama’s glue guy.

    “”He made big plays,”” Holmes said. “”I always expect something big out of him. He’s a playmaker.””

    As if the numbers weren’t good enough, Steptoe’s two highlight plays both set up scores. His 48-yard catch to start the second quarter led to Nick Folk’s second field goal of the game, and his stunning reverse field run in the fourth quarter put the Wildcats at the 29-yard line, leading to Folk’s game winning 48-yarder.

    On the play “”Step”” caught a screen pass, reversed field and then juked a couple of BYU defenders with a quick cutback to the middle of the field.

    “”I just caught the ball, and after that, instincts took over, and I thought I should reverse field,”” Steptoe said. “”Really you can’t explain it. Playing football for so long, you just feel good doing a certain thing, and I just felt good doing it.

    “”I thank God that it came all right because if it hadn’t, I probably would have to fight coach Stoops, so I’m glad it came out and put us in position to kick the game-winning field goal.””

    All Holmes did, meanwhile, was go out and disrupt BYU’s offense with two sacks and a forced fumble.

    “”I told him before the game he’s gonna have to represent tonight in order to wear my number, and he went out and did just that, so I got nothing but love for him,”” Steptoe said. “”He’s making our team better.””

    After his first sack, Holmes said he was “”pretty pumped.””

    “”I wanted to get three more, but I didn’t have enough time,”” he said.

    The second time, Holmes said he didn’t even know the ball was loose because he was so intent on hitting the quarterback.

    The menacing and intimidating Holmes is so nimble he actually played running back at Scottsdale College, where he first put on the No. 1 jersey.

    “”It’s the number I wanted,”” Holmes said. “” If I have the option, why be No. 99 if you can be No. 1?””

    Using a rotating three-man defensive end rotation, Stoops didn’t even start Holmes, but No. 1 still found a way to make his impact felt, causing BYU to go backward 15 yards on his two sacks of BYU quarterback John Beck.

    “”I knew he had it in him, seeing him – glimpses of him – doing it in practice,”” Steptoe said.

    Although Holmes chose No. 1, Steptoe originally wanted No. 6, 2005 senior safety Darrell Brooks’ old number. When that wasn’t available, Steptoe was handed No. 1, and he’s run with it ever since.

    “”It’s a cool number,”” he said. “”I learned to go with it.””

    So have the two ever been mistaken for each other?

    “”That’s a hard confusion, but I did get a couple of calls thinking that I was on defense from family back home because they didn’t know Louis had my number,”” Steptoe said.

    If both play at the level of their first game, there won’t be even a slight confusion about who’s who.

    Holmes, who can’t be mistaken for anyone else on campus either, won’t be at Arizona long before he’s wearing a new number on Sundays.

    “”The next level is the NFL, and that’s where I plan on being when I leave here,”” he said.

    In the meantime, the two plan on continuing to make the No. 1 stand out and by sharing their common goal of making plays.

    “”You gotta be a playmaker,”” Holmes said.

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