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High Profile: Aaron Stecker

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 15, 2002


Whenever asked, Bucs backup running back Aaron Stecker has done a noble job filling in for Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn. In particular, Stecker has shown skill as a pass receiver out of the backfield. Last season, Stecker had 10 receptions for 101 yards and that included a 35-yard touchdown reception against the Titans.


Having returned kicks through high school and college, the experience wasn't new to Stecker when then-coach Tony Dungy asked him to take on the responsibility in 2000. After all, being a kickoff returner helped Stecker make the roster. That year he had 29 returns for 663 yards with a long of 48 yards. Stecker lost the job to Frank Murphy the following season but was called into service when Murphy injured his knee. Stecker averaged a 28.8 yards on nine returns, including an 86-yarder against the Saints.


Patience has been Stecker's calling card, and it appears to also mirror the way he approaches returning and running with the ball. A powerful runner with slashing skills, Stecker says he doesn't necessarily run straight ahead into the wedge but routinely waits to set up his blocks. "I approach it a little differently," he said. "When I get the ball in my hands it's a natural ability to run to where I see something can happen. Some returners try to get there and hit it full speed. I actually prefer to be patient and when I see the hole then I accelerate. Sometimes it can get you in problems, but it's the way I run. I'm not that type of runner who can run out of control."


At 5 feet 10, 205 pounds, Stecker is sturdier than most "change of pace" backs in the league, but no slower. In his third season, the 26-year-old from Green Bay, Wis., said he has learned to appreciate every opportunity he gets to touch the ball and understands that the key to success as a returner is the protection up front. "The blocking up front is critical," said Stecker, who is married to Kara and the father of daughter Skylar. "I feel it's a new technique (with the new coaching staff), and it makes it a little cleaner for me to read them. When I get back there it's not as cluttered as it used to be."

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