To T-step or Not to T-step


I didn’t start this, Deion did. This has become an annual thing as the GOAT, Deion Sanders, narrates the action at the NFL combine. One thing you can bet on every year will be Deion voicing his displeasure for the T-step but is the GOAT right on this one?

One thing is for sure, the whole T-step debate seems to have ramped up this year more than ever. Perhaps we can blame it on increased viewership of the NFL combine or because social media is taking a greater importance in our lives.

Deion Sanders was a high school quarterback that learned how to play cornerback in college. He was taught to play by Mickey Andrews who has a long list of All Americans and All Pros to his credit. During his four years at FSU, there was no other DB coach. With that in mind, it stands to reason that Sanders would hold coach Andrews’ teachings as gospel. To do anything else may seem disrespectful to a man he feels he owes so much to.

Me, on the other hand, had five different defensive back coaches in five college seasons at two different schools. Some coaches loved the bicycle step and some swore by the t-step. I did what they wanted me to. As a result, I became proficient in both techniques. I was one to study myself on film obsessively. Here’s what I found out about the t-step vs the bicycle step. IT DOESN’T MATTER!!

I slipped coming out of my back pedal using both. I came out of my back pedal slow using both. You know what did matter? Where my eyes were before I made my break. Where my feet landed in proximity to my hips when I made my break. My ability to anticipate the next move by the WR before I made my break. When I was on point in those things I got some of the most tremendous breaks every year playing for each DB coach using both techniques.

Here’s what else I learned, different breaks require different techniques. If you are breaking on a route downhill (hitch, curl, comeback) a bicycle step is more natural and may be slightly better. It’s not better if you have T-stepped forever and are now being taught to bicycle step. If you are breaking on an out route or anything 90 degrees then the more natural thing to do is T-step as it allows you to open your hips at the necessary angle to attack that route.

So at the end of the day, this is much ado about nothing. If you have eye discipline, can plant efficiently under your hips and anticipate routes you will come out of your breaks like lightning. Whether you t-step or bicycle step is not more important than the 3 things I pointed out previously.

As a coach / trainer, here’s what I else I learned. Trying to change a t-stepper to a bicycle stepper and vice versa after they’ve been getting coached for about 3 or more years is not worth it. It’s basically telling a left handed batter in baseball that he needs to hit right handed. What side of the plate you hit from comes naturally. What side you hit from is not more important than seeing the ball, anticipating pitches and using proper mechanics to bring the bat head to the ball.

Ultimately the debate exists because every man who has achieved success wants to remain beholden to the technique they used to get them there. We have highly successful men that have used both techniques. That alone should tell you something.

Author: Chad Wilson

Chad Wilson is the owner of All Eyes DB Camp and author of "101 DB Tips". He played college football at the University of Miami and briefly in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Over his 15 year high school football coaching career, he tutored over a dozen Division I defensive backs and as a trainer has worked with NFL All Pros, first round draft picks, college football All Americans and Top 10 ranked high school football prospects.

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