|Born:||January 20, 1967|
|Height:||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Weight:||265 lb (120 kg)|
|High school:||Erie (PA) Cathedral|
|NFL Draft:||1989 / Round: 3 / Pick: 57|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at NFL.com · PFR|
Mark Matthew Stepnoski (born January 20, 1967) is an American former professional football player who was an offensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL). He attended Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, Pennsylvania, and went on to star at the University of Pittsburgh. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, with the Dallas Cowboys from 1989 to 1994, with the Houston Oilers from 1995 to 1998, and back to the Cowboys for three more seasons. Stepnoski won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys and was selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1992 to 1996.
He signed with the University of Pittsburgh and became a four-year starter at offensive guard, helping clear the way for Craig Heyward and Curvin Richards to become two of the leading rushers in the nation.
Stepnoski was a third team All-American as a sophomore, a first team All-American in 1988 and one of the three finalists for the Outland Trophy as a senior. He was a two-time Academic All-American (1986 and 1988). Played in the East–West Shrine Game.
His play earned him a spot on his home state's All Century Second Team, compiled by the Pennsylvania Football News.
Dallas Cowboys (first stint)
Stepnoski was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft. He dropped in the draft because the scouts thought he was undersized for the National Football League.
The Cowboys switched him to center, although he had never played that position. During his rookie year he was tutored by Tom Rafferty, who was playing his last season in the NFL. He became a starter for the last four games of the season. Stepnoski used his athletic ability, leverage and balance to outmaneuver bigger defensive players and become one of the league's best centers of his era. By the end of the 1991 season he was selected to the first of five straight Pro Bowls. From 1992 to 1994, together with Erik Williams, Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton and Kevin Gogan, he was part of some of the best offensive lines to play in NFL history, that also helped pave the way for Emmitt Smith to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher. In 1993, he suffered a knee injury that required surgery while playing against the Minnesota Vikings in the 13th game of the season. He was replaced by John Gesek and couldn't play during the playoffs and Super Bowl XXVIII. He became a free agent at the end of the season, but the Cowboys could only sign him to a one-year contract ($1.2 million and a $500,000 signing bonus).
Houston / Tennessee Oilers
Stepnoski signed with the Houston Oilers in 1995. During his first two seasons with the Oilers he increased his streak of Pro Bowl selections to five. Stepnoski played two more seasons with the team upon their relocation to Nashville.
Dallas Cowboys (second stint)
Stepnoski played 13 seasons in the National Football League, which included five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1992–1996) and a place on the National Football League 1990s All-Decade second team. He won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys (XXVII and XXVIII) and was a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2007.
During the early 2000s, Stepnoski served as president of the Texas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He became a lifetime member of NORML in 1998 when he contributed $2000 to the organization. He kept private his views as an active player though, not wanting to create a distraction for his team. As an active player, Stepnoski says he occasionally used cannabis for pain relief.
Stepnoski's advocacy caused his high school alma mater, Cathedral Preparatory School, to cancel his induction into the school's athletic hall of fame. His efforts also drew the ire of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush. A spokesperson stated: "It's really kind of sad that someone who could use his role as a role model for young children chooses not to use it constructively, but to use it for something that has caused devastation for families throughout this country."
- "The Pennsylvania Football News All-Century Teams". pafootballnews.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
- Eatman, Nick (July 3, 2012). "The 53: Stepnoski To Anchor The Middle". dallascowboys.com. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
- "Mark Stepnoski". Erie Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "Preliminary nominees for Class of 07". profootballhof.com. October 27, 2006. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Donald, Mark (October 31, 2002). "Steppin' Out". Dallas Observer. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Armentano, Paul (April 10, 2003). "Lineman for Liberty". Reason. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
- McKenna, Dave (November 21, 2003). "The Grass Is Sometimes Greener". Washington City Paper. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Hruby, Patrick (January 21, 2003). "Fired up". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on August 9, 2021. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
- Outside the Lines: Marijuana in Sports, ESPN, February 23, 2003, retrieved August 9, 2021
- Dudley, John (November 4, 2007). "Q&A; with Mark Stepnoski". Erie Times-News. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007.
- McFarland, John (February 21, 2003). "Former Cowboy Stepnoski now advocating marijuana legalization". Plainview Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
- Townsend, Brad (September 22, 2016). "What the Dallas Cowboys think about marijuana". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved August 9, 2021.