It gets cold in Chile. Maybe not as cold as it does in Minnesota, though.
‘’There’s no way to escape the cold, you just have to accept it and keep doing your thing,’’ said Bryan Steinsapir, the University of St. Thomas kicker who kicked a field goal and four extra points in sub-freezing temperatures during the Tommie’s heartbreaking 34-31 loss Saturday in the NCAA Division 3 national quarterfinal game against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
While the story lines for this big time matchup in the United States were things like a matchup between the nation’s 3rd (12-0 St. Thomas) and 4th (11-1 UW-Oshkosh) teams, or the Tommies’ 7th playoff appearance in 8 seasons behind the growing legend that is St. Thomas Head Coach, Glenn Caruso’s coaching tenure, the international angle of this game is Chile’s favorite football son, Steinsapir, not only advancing to depths unknown for a football player from his country, but playing a key role.
Reaching a national quarterfinal as a starter for the number-three ranked team in the USA is a far cry from Steinsapir’s initial goals in American football.
‘’Our dream was basically to play an organized game,’’ said Steinsapir of the aspirations that filled him and his younger brother, Kyle, when they first fell in love with the sport.
Perhaps fittingly, Steinsapir’s growth as a player has paralleled the growth of American football in his home country.
‘’We thought it was really cool so we started just playing catch between ourselves, acting like if we were actual players,’’ he said, and it wasn’t long before the brothers became, in their words, ‘’actual players,’’ as they discovered American football being played in their home town of Santiago in 2010.
‘’We were so pumped,’’ said Steinsapir, ‘’All we did every day was talk about football with each other and after school we would practice routes and passing with each other,’’ he added.
As Bryan and Kyle continued to play, the sport continued to grow in Chile, and both brothers were selected to represent Chile on the Under-20 National Team against Uruguay, and then to attend an IFAF camp held at IMG Academy. These experiences had a profound impact on Steinsapir’s love of the game, as well as his understanding that there existed others around the world that shared his passion.
‘’(The camp at IMG) was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was a chance to meet great players from around the world, and great people that shared the same passion for the game,’’ he said.
Although he played all over the field in Chile, and primarily as a wide receiver, the 6’1, 190 pound Steinsapir is what one might call, ‘’a gamer.’’ In other words: He just wanted to get on the field. So, when the University of St. Thomas told him that the best chance to play was with using his big leg as a kicker, he jumped at the opportunity.
At St. Thomas, while Steinsapir has seen very little other than success (The Tommies appeared in the 2015 National Championship game), he has noted, as one might expect, many differences between the game in the US, and Chile.
“The skill level and the size of the players is way higher here, but the biggest difference is the organization and the time commitment. Back home, we only practiced or played on Saturdays, because we had to rent the field that we played/practice at. Here, it is an every day thing, and everything my teammates and I do here is centered towards football and school. You wake up, go to school for the first half of the day and then the other half you have football practice. Practice is very structured and every single thing we do is done with a purpose.’’
Tommie Head Coach, Glenn Caruso, believes that Steinsapir has not only been a difference-maker on the field, but also in the University of St. Thomas community.
“Brian has done a phenomenal job not just adjusting to the culture of our team but embracing the greater culture of football. He has grown so much in the past three years and has earned a starting spot through his focus, selflessness and tremendous work ethic. He certainly a great kicker but more importantly, he’s an even better person,” said Caruso.
Steinsapir echos those sentiments about his school.
‘’People here have been very nice and welcoming, I feel that my coaches and teammates care for me a lot, I’m very happy I chose this school and I’m blessed to be a part of such a cohesive team.’’
While Steinsapir is a senior in the classroom, majoring in entrepreneurship, he is only a junior on the field, and is not sure where football might take him after this playoff run and the spring semester. His focus, for now, is brining a national title to the twin cities.
‘’Our goal is obviously to win it all. But our focus is always the game we have coming on Saturday, we tried not to get ahead of ourselves and just living in the moment. Our focus is to be the best ‘’us’’ that we can be, and if we do that we know that good things will happen.’’