McGinn: Memories and more for Kyle Steuck

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers rookie center Kyle Steuck is shown before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 18.

GREEN BAY – Kyle Steuck would have been perfectly happy just knowing he had a chance to play for the Green Bay Packers.

“Once in a lifetime,” said Steuck, the center-guard from West De Pere High School and Northern Michigan University. “It’s really hard to find words to describe that.”

Peek behind the curtain and you’ll discover Steuck (pronounced Stewk) left the Packers with more than memories. His injury settlement for a broken fibula was worth $176,294, according to records of the transaction.

“Really?” said John Zegers, the district administrator at West De Pere. “Oh, my. Good for him. Good kid. How cool.”

On Wednesday night the West De Pere school board accepted the resignation of Steuck as an instructional aide. The 23-year-old Steuck has a major injury to recover from and dreams of pursuing a berth in the NFL.

“He just said it’s not fair to hold us hostage so he resigned from the position,” Zegers said. “I think he still has a glimmer of hope of catching on some place. I’m happier than heck for the kid.”

There’s an auxiliary area just off the Packers’ spacious main locker room where free agents looking to make their mark against long odds are quartered.

Now that the regular season is underway, those players that occupied the bottom 25 berths on the 90-man roster are gone and forgotten.

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For some, Green Bay will represent the final time they ever wear a helmet and shoulder pads. For most, they will have departed with little tangibly to show for the experience other than some bumps and bruises and what’s left of their $1,000 weekly checks during training camp.

Of the 31 undrafted free agents signed by the Packers in 2016, Steuck was the last to arrive.

With five of the 15 offensive linemen in camp sidelined by injury, the Packers dipped into their emergency list Aug. 14 and called Steuck, who had auditioned for them May 6-8.

Steuck, 6 feet 2 inches and 315 pounds, had just two practices under his belt before he played 12 snaps against the Oakland Raiders. He played six more in San Francisco before he ran out onto the field with 6 minutes left in the exhibition finale at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

At that point, no more than 1,000 to 2,000 fans remained as coaches Mike McCarthy and Andy Reid were running the ball trying to get the game over with and avoid injury.

On Steuck’s seventh snap, the Packers’ second-to-last offensively of the exhibition campaign, he was blocking at right guard when a teammate fell into him from behind.

“I got rolled up on the back,” Steuck said. “I stood up and I felt it crack again. I knew it was broken but I said, ‘Let’s finish the drive out.’ I played the fourth down on a broken fib.”

Trainer Bryan Engel came out to assist Steuck as he labored coming off. Patrick McKenzie, the team physician, might have known immediately that Steuck's lower right shin was fractured.

That was on a Thursday night. On Saturday, Steuck was one of 22 players removed from the roster during the final cut.

Technically, Steuck was waived as injured, and after clearing waivers that Sunday was placed on injured reserve.

Steuck’s three-year minimum contract contained a split in both 2017 and ’18. His $450,000 base salary this year, to be paid in 1/17th installments if he made the team, was reduced to $333,000 if he went on injured reserve.

Steuck’s gross earnings were $19,588 for the week of Sept. 4 that he spent on IR. During that week, his agent set up an appointment with an orthopedist in Milwaukee.

When the Packers decided to seek an injury settlement, vice president Russ Ball would have negotiated with the agent for Steuck to determine the number of weeks that he should be paid.

Some of these cases go to arbitration. In situations involving fractures, some agents refuse to settle and insist that their client remain on IR receiving their salary.

Let’s say the Packers’ position, as set forth by McKenzie, was eight weeks before full recovery. Let’s say Steuck’s position, as set forth by the doctor in Milwaukee, was 10 weeks before full recovery.

In any event, agreement was reached that Steuck’s injury settlement would be for nine weeks and total just more than $175,000. After taxes, he might clear a little more than $100,000.

Green Bay negotiated injury settlements with six other players this month, including tight end Kennard Backman ($184,235), guards Matt Rotheram ($97,941) and Josh Walker ($81,822), center Jacob Flores ($58,765), long snapper Jesse Schmitt ($58,765) and tackle Josh James ($19,588).

As partners in a $12 billion industry, the Packers and all NFL teams should be ashamed to have rules permitting split contracts. If a player lands on injured reserve, he should be paid his full base salary.

Just because Steuck doesn’t have a Division I pedigree doesn’t mean he wasn’t performing an important role that night in Kansas City. If Steuck or an unheralded free agent like him wasn’t taking those snaps, it could have been T.J. Lang or Lane Taylor.

In any event, Steuck didn’t want to discuss the injury settlement.

“I don’t do it for the money,” he said. “I do it to play and touch and motivate as many people as I can.”

Currently living in the home of his parents, Lee and Angela, in West De Pere, he is rehabbing his leg and eager to resume pursuit of an NFL career.

“I’ve got two hard-working parents that have worked their whole life to give me the life I have,” he said. “The toughest part of my schooling was trying to finish and training for the NFL at the same time.

“I worked my butt off day in and day out. That’s how I was raised by my mom and dad. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it.”

In high school, Steuck started at center as the Phantoms lost to Reedsburg in the WIAA Division 3 championship game in 2009 and then defeated Waukesha Catholic Memorial for the title in 2010. He was a two-time captain at NMU, starting 44 games at multiple positions.

When his football career ends, Steuck plans to put his degree in secondary education and physical education to work teaching and coaching football.

No one appreciated the chance in Green Bay this summer more than Steuck. He paid the price for it with a broken leg, but at least he was compensated financially.

Kyle Steuck savors the moment after West De Pere defeated Waukesha Catholic Memorial 35-0 during the 2010 WIAA Div. 3 state football championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
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