Honoring a friend
Steege to wear No. 30 in remembrance of Jonny Maxfield
When Joe Steege takes the field for the Mesa State College football team’s season opener Saturday night, his first thought won’t be on the game.
It will be on his former teammate and close friend.
The sophomore wide receiver will take a knee at the 30-yard line and pray for the Mavericks’ former number 30, Jonny Maxfield.
Steege is wearing Maxfield’s number 30 jersey this year in honor of Maxfield, who died from injuries sustained in a one-vehicle accident earlier this summer.
“I knew the thing I wanted to do was say a prayer on the 30-yard line,” said Steege, who was in the same recruiting class as Maxfield. “I’m going to do it before every game.
“I asked his parents if it would be all right (to wear his jersey). I’ll continue to work as hard as he did.”
The Mavericks will wear decals on their helmets this season with Maxfield’s initials, JGM.
“He was a great young man,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “He had all the things you look for. He was a good student with a tremendous work ethic. He befriended everybody. Everyone got along with Jonny. He touched everyone in a positive way.”
Maxfield, 20, of Mountain View, Wyo., was driving a pickup with a flatbed trailer July 10 on Wyoming Highway 430 toward Rock Springs when the truck rolled, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Maxfield was on his way to a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Steege’s hometown, Pinedale, Wyo.
“There was a big get-together in Pinedale called the Rendezvous,” Steege said. “I was at the rodeo that evening. Word got to me (about the accident) from a visitor from his hometown.
“I thought it was a joke. I thought it was one of his pranks and he would pop out and say, ‘Ha, gotcha!’ I didn’t believe it for the longest time until I heard it from Jonny’s father.”
Maxfield, who would have been a sophomore this season, was taken to a hospital in Salt Lake City and was removed from life support July 12,three days before his 21st birthday. He had three sisters and a younger brother.
He was involved in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and in the Associated Student Government and earned playing time on special teams last year. He was originally a running back, but switched to defensive back in spring ball.
Maxfield and Steege would lean on each other through the transition of attending college more than five hours from their hometowns.
“With both of us being from Wyoming, we could relate,” Steege said. “We stayed friends through the two years here. We would hang out before and after practice. He would do anything for me if I needed a favor. He would be the first to ask.”
Senior captain and safety Aaron Silverthorn, who attended Maxfield’s funeral, witnessed the friendship between Maxfield and Steege firsthand. Silverthorn’s locker was directly across from theirs.
“Every day, he put in everything he had,” Silverthorn said. “I respect that. It’s not about how good a player he is, it’s about work ethic. It’s sad to see that he’s not going to be there to enjoy all the success that comes from hard work.”
It was hard for Steege to return to Mesa State this fall.
“It hurt a lot,” he said. “Coming to meetings the first day was hard. Not seeing him on the field the first couple of practices was the toughest. It was a hard thing to put on his jersey for the scrimmage and taking his locker.”
His Mesa teammates have tried to help Steege through his grief.
“A couple times during the summer I would put my arm around Joe and tell him it’s going to be all right, just keep working,” Silverthorn said. “That was his best friend, I can only imagine. He’s handling it OK. He’s still here, working hard.
“There is no guarantee to anything in this life except we’re going to die. I think it has opened people’s eyes to not wasting a day and working hard. No matter if it’s a bad day or not, the coaches are yelling at you, you still go hard and put everything you have into it. We’re cherishing every moment.”