All it took Aaron Steinfeldt was one look around the Indiana locker room on his first day on campus for the reality to set in: He wasn’t in high school anymore. Not even close.
On one side of the room was defender Marcelino Ball, his body chiseled and defined from five years of Big Ten service. Nearby was Tim Baldwin, a mere sophomore — albeit one who’s already appeared to maximize his time in the weight room.
“Greek Gods of nature,” Steinfeldt called them. “Zeus-like physiques. I just look at them and I’m like, ‘That’s just hard work and dedication.’ I want to be on that type of level.”
In time, the freshman tight end from Bloomington North expects to get there — or, at least, somewhere close. As he settles into a crowded position room in the bowels of IU’s North End Zone complex this summer, Steinfeldt is taking the first steps toward becoming the Big Ten player he aims to be. For him, that means figuring out the offensive playbook, getting in synch with his teammates, and adding more muscle to his athletic 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame.
“Talking with the nutrition staff, they thought how much I weigh is pretty perfect for my level and the position I’m in,” Steinfeldt said. “(The focus for me will be) maintaining that weight and cutting body fat. So I have to eat a certain amount of calories and protein every day. I have to track what I eat and be disciplined.”
Steinfeldt should have time to figure everything out. He’s not necessarily being counted on to impact the Hoosiers on the field this fall, with a full room of tight ends already projecting ahead of him on the depth chart. After all, IU returns Peyton Hendershot, Matt Bjorson, AJ Barner and Kham Taylor at the position in 2021.
In the meantime, Steinfeldt is studying up on the ways he might be able to help down the road, doing so under the watchful eyes of his more experienced teammates.
“The tight ends in our room are great overall dudes,” Steinfeldt said. “Every single one of them. They’ve just put me under their wings. Guys like AJ, Matt, Peyton and Kham, and all the other guys, too, they’ve done a great job of teaching me the basics and fundamentals. The first couple of weeks, I was just asking them what to do when it comes to plays and formations and stuff like that. But they’ve brought me along.”
For Steinfeldt, a former multi-sport athlete, this is the first time in his life that he’s focusing on just one sport. At Bloomington North, Steinfeldt also played baseball and basketball to keep him busy year-round. In fact, he recently became the first Cougar in 20 years to earn all-Conference Indiana honors in three sports.
IU coach Tom Allen says he prioritizes multi-sport athletes — whenever possible — and Steinfeldt certainly fits the mold. And now that Steinfeldt will have the ability to strictly focus on football and the strength training that goes with it, the 18-year-old is excited for the physical transformation he expects to see over the coming months.
“In high school, I lifted and played my sports, but now I’ll have winter conditioning, spring practice and summer conditioning,” Steinfeldt said. “Now, I’m getting to the point where I can kind of see some growth in me just because I can focus on football and not worry about travel baseball and AAU tournaments. I’m just committing to football workouts. When it comes to building over time, like a couple years from now, I’ll just see a huge change in myself.”
And it might not be long before he looks and feels a little more Big Ten-ready.
“I’m here,” Steinfeldt said, “and I want to be the best version of myself.”