Mann Makes Great on High Expectations
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
April 20, 2017
BEVERLY HILLS – Entering high school, Steve Mann faced high expectations.
His mother and father both experienced much success as student-athletes at Detroit Country Day, and his sister, Brittany, was one of the top track athletes to compete at and graduate from the school.
But while it's still too early to tell, Steve might end up the best of the Mann bunch.
Steve, 18, has played varsity football and baseball for four seasons each at Country Day, earning all-state honors in football this past fall and baseball as a junior. Also an outstanding student, he has signed to continue his academic and baseball careers at Duke University, where he’ll end up unless he’s drafted by a Major League Baseball team this summer and offered a deal he can’t refuse – it’s possible he’ll be taken during the first five rounds.
Country Day varsity baseball coach Steve Lepkowski – a 1993 graduate of the school and former football assistant as well before taking over the baseball program in 2015 – said he’s never coached an athlete like Mann.
“Steve is going to be successful at whatever he does,” Lepkowski said. “He’s a four-year captain here. That’s as unique as you can get. We vote for that. And every year we re-vote, and (each) time we re-voted him in.”
Last season, Mann hit .396 with 25 RBI, 24 stolen bases and 27 walks. Through seven games this season, he’s hitting .536 with three home runs, 18 RBI, nine stolen bases and nine walks. He also is 3-0 pitching with a 1.65 ERA.
In football, Mann played defensive back, quarterback and receiver. He’s 6-foot tall, and his weight has fluctuated depending on what sport he is playing. For football, his playing weight was 195 pounds. For baseball he’s up to 210. Mann is a centerfielder who, out of necessity, also pitches for Country Day. He’s expected to be an outfielder at the next level.
With his Duke signing in November, Mann left a football future behind. But he has known for a while where he wanted to be next. Scholarship offers from a more prestigious baseball conference, the Southeastern Conference, fed Mann’s appetite. But he had his sights set on Duke (which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference) early on, so when the scholarship offer came, that was the end of his recruiting process.
“The scouts ask me, why Duke? Why not the SEC?" Lepkowski said. "Well, I said, Steve cares about academics. Duke has been number one with him all along. As a sophomore, I asked him, where do you want to go? It was Duke. So I talked with Duke. I know of the coaches there. And I told them I have a player here that wants to go to your school, and they asked who. I told them Steve Mann. They said, Steve Mann? He wants to come here? That was it. I call him the Shane Battier of baseball.”
If an explanation is needed, Battier helped lead Duke to an NCAA basketball championship after being at the forefront of Country Day’s Class B titles in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Battier was named Mr. Basketball by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan as a senior, and Mann is a leading candidate for the Mr. Baseball Award this spring.
Like Battier, Mann also is an outstanding student. He carries a 3.94 grade-point average, taking classes including honors English and advanced placement mathematics and Spanish.
And as for mentors, Mann has to look no further than his living room couch. His father, Steve, also played football, basketball and ran track at Country Day. He caught the winning touchdown pass in the 1986 Class C title game against Muskegon Catholic Central (Final score: 18-14). He went on to play football at University of Wyoming.
His mother, Kira (Lewis), played basketball, lacrosse and volleyball at Country Day before continuing her education at Penn.
Then there’s his sister, Brittany. A 2012 Country Day graduate, Brittany was the Lower Peninsula Division 2 discus and shot put champion as a junior and senior. Country Day won the team title her junior season. Brittany went on to compete at Oregon before graduating last year. She’s enrolled at Southern California and in pursuit of her master’s in communications.
At Oregon, Brittany set the school record in the shot put (57 feet, 4¾ inches) and helped lead her school to its first NCAA team title (2015) in 30 years. She was a four-time All-American.
“I had some big shoes to fill when I came here,” Steve Mann said of Country Day. “Since high school started, even in eighth grade, I knew baseball was going to be it. Before eighth grade I focused on being an athlete. With Brittany coming through Country Day, it was easy to see what I needed to do (to be successful). It was kind of like a competition. I want to be like you, but I want to be better.”
Individually, Mann and his sister are pretty much on par. But there’s that elusive team title he has yet to help win, though he has come close.
County Day lost in the Division 4 Football Final this past November, and last spring the Yellowjackets reached the Division 2 Quarterfinals in baseball before they were eliminated by Dearborn Divine Child, 4-3.
Mann has one more shot.
“I tell myself, I have to win a state championship,” he said. “We’re good enough to win it.”
Mann has always been around sports, even when he was too young to realize it. The year he was born was the year his father became an assistant football coach at Country Day. Whether he was the water boy, ball boy or just tagging along, Steve grew up watching sports.
“I was always with my dad,” he said. “When I was 5, 6 years old, just being out there was great. My dad has taken me through this journey. It was a step-by-step process.
“Another big factor for me was Brittany going on her recruiting visits.”
When he was in the eighth grade, Steve Mann had the opportunity to meet Olympian Devin Allen through his sister. In 2016, Allen became the first man since 1956 to win the 110-meter hurdles at both the NCAA Outdoor Championships and U.S. Olympic Trials. Allen also played receiver on Oregon’s football team.
“I was star-struck,” Mann said. “He was so humble. How could you not want that for yourself?”
Mann is unassuming. Bragging is not a trait his household condones. Great athletes don’t have to tell you how good they are. Their actions do the talking.
His parents deserve much of the credit for this. A part of Mann’s training was to compete against athletes two and three years older to see, for one, how they train and, two, to see how much Mann needed to improve athletically to become like them.
“There were a lot of expectations,” his father said. “He is very self-driven, to live up to both the Mann name at Country Day and to create his own path. I’ve tried to teach him what it’s like to play at the next level.”
As an example, Steve Mann had his son train in the baseball offseason with Major League players who were home away from the game. This experience was not so much about throwing or hitting a baseball. It was about being around those who made it to see how they trained, what foods they ate and the like.
“I did a similar thing with him when he was in middle school,” Mann said of his son. “I’d have him train with the guys in high school, like a Jonas Gray (currently an NFL free agent) and a Bennie Fowler (Denver Broncos). I do that with my younger son, too.”
The Manns' third child is Brandon, who is 13 years old and about to complete the seventh grade. And, yes, Brandon Mann also plays baseball and football, and, yes, his is quite good at both.
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Steve Mann starred as a multi-position football player during the fall and also pitches and plays outfield during baseball season. (Middle) Mann, here at the plate, could be drafted during the top five rounds in June. (Below) Mann prepares to unload a pass last fall. (Baseball photos by D’Andrea Parnell. Football photos by Scott Bertschy.)
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)