FameBooking had the opportunity to sit down with retired Miami Dolphin and Kansas City native Steve Towle the other day. We hope this transcript captures Steve’s engaging wisdom, humor, and humble spirit.
FameBooking: We love to help fans meet their favorite players. So our first question is - do you have a favorite fan?
Steve Towle: Well, I have to preface this question with - this is kind of embarrassing - but very early on in interviews, I would be asked who my heroes were growing up. I always answered I was a fan of Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, which is a cartoon (DC Comics). I loved comic books. So I would always read Sgt. Rock. I knew they wanted me to say Dick Butkus or Ray Nitschke. But I really didn’t have a favorite player.
Which leads me into my fan story. My fan group was called the Towle Patrol. This is funny. They got these orange jumpsuits, and also had army helmets like Sgt. Rock, and painted them in Dolphins colors. A lot of times, Coach Shula would come up to me before the game, and say, ‘Have you found the Towle Patrol today?’ And I’d say, ‘Ya, and they just got kicked out. They caused another ruckus in the visitors’ section, and the game hasn’t even started yet.’ But they’d wait for me after the game. I would meet them for a cold one, and I’d have to tell them what happened in the game, because they missed it.
F: How do you feel about being asked for an autograph?
S: If someone takes the time to say, ‘Steve, will you autograph this? Absolutely, yes. I mean if they want to sell the item or collect it - Go for it! I’m just so honored that someone wants my autograph. The funniest thing is when someone comes up and asks, ‘Didn’t you used to be Steve Towle? Or were you Steve Towle? Well, I’m still Steve Towle.’ They see you as a different person from the past. 99.9% of the people are very polite, very sharing - and this gives us a chance to say thank you one on one to these people who have taken the time to collect my cards or found something they want me to sign. I love it.
F: When did you entertain the thought of making it to the NFL?
S: Not until college did I really even think I had a shot at pro football. I started at KU. You couldn’t play varsity football until your sophomore year. So when I was playing Oklahoma against some very good seniors, and then saw them get drafted - I thought maybe I had a shot.
F: Can you tell us about your best season in the NFL?
S: So it came together for me in 1976 with 217 single tackles in a 14 game season. It has yet to be broken in the 16 game season. I was really trying to get them to run wide or quit running at me. It’s such a tribute to the rest of my teammates, to get that many single tackles, because they were focused on other guys, not me. Are you going to pull a guy off Manny Fernandez? Are you going to pull one off Vern Den Herder? No. You’re going to say, ‘Maybe we can get a guy who can handle Steve.’ They couldn’t.
F: Did you have an superstitions for that season?
S: Sports is so superstitious. If something goes well, for some reason we think it has something to do with what we ate, drank or wore. The funniest ones for me were with my equipment - I didn’t want to wear anything that hadn’t been worn in practice. The only thing I would want new in the locker was my jock (chuckle). That was my superstition. I would see my teammates get a new pair of shoes from a guy in the parking lot, and I would think they were crazy. They would tell me, ‘Steve, there’s a lot of money in shoes.’ And I would think, ‘Not on Sunday! Maybe tomorrow, but not for a game that day.’
F: Can you walk us through when you knew your career had ended as a player and what your first reactions were?
S: I’ve had 17 different surgeries, so injuries caught up with me. So you end your career because of that. I cried. I knew it was the end. It’s like do I want to stay in football by coaching or do I want to be a rookie all over again? Because of the way I grew up, it was like, ‘OK I'm very proud of what I’ve accomplished on the football field, but I want to learn something new.’ Athletics translates well into business. You can run a division of a company, or an entire company for that matter, like a league or a team. There’s four quarters to a year, four quarters in a game. You’ve got the off season to get stronger. I think it’s very similar to business.
F: With you being a Jayhawk, how do feel about KU’s new head coach?
S: First of all, I want to thank David Beaty for all he brought to KU. I think Les Miles can take it to another level. You can tell there's a little difference in the skill level of who they got in to recruit. You’ve got to have great recruiters who can go after the top players in the country and be prepared to beat an Alabama. And that’s what Les Miles will bring. He's not afraid of anybody. He's not afraid to ask anybody to come to KU. My prediction is within three years we will be back to beating K-State and MU on a much more regular basis, because that's really what you have to do.
F: Do you have any advice for young athletes?
S: I would say to young men and women find something that you’re really interested in that is classically called an extracurricular. The idea of an extracurricular is something that you can focus on and measure your own accomplishment, something that no one says you have to do.
The greatest mistake a young athlete can make is only focusing on that sport - making it your only goal in life. I absolutely love that type of dedication, but if you only focus on your sport, spend all your spare time in the weight room working out, that will make you a very narrowly disciplined athlete.
F: Steve, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Any final thoughts in closing?
S: I’m just excited about the prospect of meeting fans of football, and if they are my fans, that’s even better. I’d love to be able to discuss in depth my thoughts on raising children to be the best they can be through supportive parenting. I’ll tell you, having the time to spend with my grandkids is the greatest joy that this retired football player can do these days. It doesn’t get better than that.
Follow Steve’s blog at https://stevetowleblog.com for more exciting stories from this NFL alumni.