Tight end Aaron Steinfeldt caught his first touchdown in an Indiana uniform Saturday against Michigan at Memorial Stadium, a 10-yard scamper down the right sideline to put Indiana ahead 13-10 in the second quarter.
Until he didn’t.
Well after Steinfeldt and his teammates celebrated the touchdown and marched off the field to make way for the extra point unit, a penalty flag was thrown. Offensive pass interference for a pick play. Six points wiped off the board.
While the moment of joy was brief for Steinfeldt, the play showed the Bloomington native that he can be a playmaker and contributor in the Big Ten.
“After the game, my dad said ‘you belong,’” Steinfeldt said Tuesday. “I’m still a young kid, a young player just trying to make it up in the league, in the big time. He said, ‘you belong, you’re one of the players in the Big Ten.’ He told me to be like it, act like it, prepare like it.”
Head coach Tom Allen was less than thrilled with the decision by the officials to throw the pass interference flag on Steinfeldt’s score, but he was pleased to see his redshirt freshman tight end make the play against a stout Wolverines defense.
“He had a chance to make a big play there, and he did,” Allen said on his radio show on Wednesday evening.
Steinfeldt has played in all six games and has three catches for 42 yards on the season. Allen says he still needs to develop as a pass blocker, and he had been used situationally early in the season. But his chance to prove his ability as a starting Big Ten tight end came sooner than expected, as injuries to A.J. Barner and fellow Bloomington-product James Bomba held both players out of Saturday’s contest.
Despite Steinfeldt’s lack of experience at the collegiate level, tight ends coach Kevin Wright was confident in the redshirt freshman’s ability to step up and fill in for his veteran counterparts.
“He’s always had tremendous ball skills and been a good route runner,” Wright said Tuesday. “Just being a young guy, the physicality of the game, being technically sound and the different things we asked him to do. Run blocking and pass protection are where he’s gotten better. I thought he had a really good game.”
While the Michigan game marked Steinfeldt’s first start in Memorial Stadium, it was far from his first time playing in the building.
The Bloomington High School North graduate spent Saturdays on the mini field at the former Knot Hole Park in the south end zone of the stadium as a kid, cheering on his hometown Hoosiers and catching passes mere feet from where he caught a near-touchdown on Saturday..
Football was not always the sport of choice for Steinfeldt, however. The tight end also played basketball and baseball at both St. Charles Catholic School in Bloomington and at Bloomington North, and did not pick up football until his freshman year of high school.
Steinfeldt said that his multi-sport experience was beneficial to his development as a football player, a tip he often gives to younger athletes who ask him for advice.
Recruiting multi-sport athletes has often been a point of emphasis for head coach Tom Allen’s staff, and Wright sees Steinfeldt’s diverse athletic background as something that can not only benefit him in college, but also potentially at the next level.
“The guys that play tight end in the NFL, they’re all guys that played multiple sports in high school,” Wright said. “I love that about him, and I think that’s also where his ball skills come from.”
Eventually those ball skills will lead to a Steinfeldt touchdown that holds up.
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