The former Longhorn football star who left the program three years ago after a tiff with then-football coach Josh Anderson has agreed to again play for Anderson — this time on the collegiate level.
Steel Armstrong, a 2009 graduate of Blue Ridge High School, has verbally committed to play this season at Dakota State University.
Anderson is in his first year as head coach at DSU after resigning at Payson last spring, just months after he led the Longhorns to the 2008 3A state championship.
Four years ago, Armstrong was an all-region freshman lineman and linebacker at PHS under former coach Jerry Rhoades.
After Anderson replaced Rhoades at the onset of the 2006 season, Armstrong played in three games for PHS before transferring to Blue Ridge where he played the remainder of the season and the following two.
Armstrong departed PHS in favor of Blue Ridge after Anderson booted him and and several others from the team for an infraction of team rules involving a teenage drinking episode.
Although there might have been some tension between Anderson and Armstrong years ago, the two are now friends and mutually respectful.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of having Steel join our team,” Anderson said. “He’s a great young man and I know he is going to be a big impact player for us once he steps on campus.”
Armstrong says what happened at PHS is in the past and he’s primed and ready to play for Anderson, especially after starring for him in the Arizona Football Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game last June in Surprise.
Anderson was head coach on the North team that Armstrong starred for at middle linebacker.
“We had a lot of fun as all-stars,” Armstrong said. “Actually we had been talking long before that — he offered me a scholarship (to DSU), but at that time I thought I wanted to go to Scottsdale (Community College).”
Armstrong said he changed his mind about going to Scottsdale because, “I felt the Valley just wasn’t the right fit for me.”
Although the change of heart came after Anderson had used up most of his scholarship and financial aid money, Armstrong will get some help.
“Actually one of his players didn’t show up, so I’ll get his (financial aid) and probably more next year,” Armstrong said.
At DSU, Armstrong — who is 6 feet, 225 pounds — expects to play middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes’ 43 scheme.
Hayes was the defensive coordinator under Anderson at PHS.
Armstrong is sure he will quickly adjust to Hayes’ defense.
“I know I can play well in it, we played some 4-3 and 4-4 at Blue Ridge,” Armstrong said. “And I want to play (well) for Coach Hayes.”
At DSU, Armstrong will be roommates with Shane Keith, a close friend and a member of the Horns state championship team.
Keith signed a letter of intent to DSU in May.
Anderson anticipates Armstrong, Keith and other newcomers will help in turning around DSU’s sagging football fortunes.
“It’s going to be very exciting to watch and see how the veterans react to all our young talent coming in and competing for their starting positions right away,” the coach said. “There have been some bad habits around here of laziness and low work ethic, that’s going to change.”
As a Yellow Jacket
While at Blue Ridge High School, Armstrong was one of the most celebrated players in the school’s rich gridiron history.
As a senior he was named to both the All-East and All-State first teams. He was also chosen the most valuable defensive player in both the region and 3A conference. He was named to the coaches’ all-star game, on the All-Arizona team and second team All-American.
Around the state, he was widely considered one of the finest linebackers to ever play in the 3A conference.
He also lettered three years at BRHS and one at PHS.
In wrestling, he was equally as good as he was on the field, dominating almost every opponent on his way to winning the 215-pound state championship as a senior.
Although Armstrong has only verbally committed to DSU, he says he’ll return the signed letter of intent as soon as he receives it.
“He’s been accepted into school and has gotten all the necessary paperwork taken care of,” Anderson said. “As soon as we get it (the letter of intent) back, we can count on him as official.”
Armstrong has not yet settled on an academic major saying he will enroll in general studies his freshman year.