Strong as Steele; Tigers to Tigers Kevin Steele brings his defensive chops from LSU to Auburn; photo of Kevin Steele during practice

First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will step onto the football sideline this fall looking at his team from a new Tigers angle: Auburn instead of LSU. Steele served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at LSU in the 2015 season, moving to the Auburn DC position in January and now ready to face his inaugural season as the man charged with beefing up the Auburn defense.

Steele’s background also includes stints at Alabama and Clemson, as well as the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. He was a member of the 1994 national championship staff at Nebraska and has worked under such head coaches as
Tom Osborne (Nebraska), Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Nick Saban (Alabama), Les Miles (LSU), Johnny Majors (Tennessee) and Dom Capers (Carolina Panthers).

But he’s always been a fan of Auburn. Steele says he wore No. 7 as a quarterback at Prattville Junior High because that was Pat Sullivan’s number. The first college game he ever attended in Auburn was when he was in the first grade in Gordo; he can still show you where he sat. His brother, Jeff, works in the AU athletics department. His daughter, Carolina, is an Auburn graduate.

“We got the right guy,” said head coach Gus Malzahn. “I was looking for somebody who had SEC experience and has been successful in this league. He definitely has that, and then some. I was looking for a successful recruiter. He’s one of the top recruiters in all of college football. I was also looking for someone with high character and integrity, and he definitely has that. And someone who would be a great example for players, which definitely fits with that.

Steele says he wore No. 7 as a quarterback at Prattville Junior High because that was Pat Sullivan’s number.

And, lastly, I was looking for stability, someone who would be here for a while to have a chance.”

Steele, Malzahn’s third defensive coordinator, says he’s here on the Plains to stay, calling the move from Baton Rouge to Auburn “a very, very easy decision for me for a lot of reasons.”

Family was one reason. Coaching was another.

“I’m just looking forward to getting started, to meet the players, obviously to get in off-season conditioning, spring practice, implement the defensive structure,” Steele said. “Auburn had a history of being a hard-nosed, physical defense for years, ever since I was a young guy growing up in this state with a high school coach as a father. I certainly know of the tradition and the history of Auburn’s hard-nosed defense. I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

Steele said he made the move because of Malzahn “being the kind of person he is, being the kind of leader he is. That was a key component for me personally. Then the fact there is tradition and history here to win championships, to play hard-nosed defense. But from a personal standpoint, the state and this university has a large part of me in it.”