“We Loved Each Other, We Needed Each Other”: Teamwork, Pride, And Sportsmanship In Army Football

Gary Steele


Gary Steele was the first African-American starter on the Army football team. After a year of preparatory school, he came to West Point, where he excelled on the football team as a wide receiver and tight end, and on the track team as a high jumper and hurdler. He worked hard to rise up the depth chart, and appreciated the challenging culture of both teams. During his time at the Academy, he identified foremost as a Cadet, and after overcoming academic struggles, he rose to command the 1st Battalion of the 4th Regiment. Following graduation, his first assignment was in Panama, after which he returned to West Point to coach the Plebe football squad and recruit future players. He served in the Army until retiring in 1993. In this short interview, conducted as research for a Cadet’s senior thesis in History, Gary Steele discusses his experiences playing two sports at West Point. He recalls being the only black player on the football team, and the team captain pulling him aside during a trip to Knoxville to play the University of Tennessee, telling him “we’ve got your back,” which made him feel good. He describes several of the games he played in, and recounts recruiting trips he made as a coach. He never felt any racism at West Point, but identified a few incidents in the Army and in his post-military career. At the end of the interview, he reflects on what West Point means to him.


topics Army Athletics Race in the Military African American Military Experience Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie
interviewer Omar Borja
date 29 March 2021


name Gary Steele
institution USMA
graduation year 1970
service Infantry
service dates 1970 1993