Steven Tart: Number 71, broken but not beaten

Santa Monica College starting left tackle Steven Tart always has two fans watching him on Saturday afternoons when he and his brother A.G. take the field. Tart can hear his mother cheer at every home game. His brother, Shakur Rashinduddin, not so much. Rashindduin is there though, out on the field with Tart on the sidelines, watching his back or, more accurately, on his back.

Tart wears number 71, a common number for an offensive lineman. However, the sophomore standout who is considering six division one scholarship offers, wears it for himself.

“I wear the number in my brother’s memory,” says Tart as he recalls the night that his brother was killed on January 23, 2006 in his hometown of Inglewood, California.

“It was me, my brothers and two girls,” Tart begins. “This car circled the street three times. Three guys came walking around the corner shooting.” Tart and several others were struck by gunfire but were able to find cover and survived.

Rashinduddin, however was in the middle of the street, returning from a nearby store when shots rang out. He was struck multiple times as he tried to run for safety. He succumbed to his injuries and died on Jan 24th, 2006.

The death of his brother was one of the most painful days of his life, causing him to lose hope and direction.

“It made me run from what I was trying to become. I felt like if God can take him away then what is my life worth?” Tart said.

For the next few years, Tart began acting out in school, getting into fights and getting involved in gang activity. His behavior eventually forced him to be kicked out of several schools in California and eventually leading his family to move him to Glendale, Ariz. in hopes that he straighten up.

Then when Steven was 15 in Arizona, he had a dream. “My brother Shakur came to me, told me that I knew better than this. That this wasn’t who I was.”

Tart says that this dream affected him deeply, giving him the peace and motivation that he needed to move forward on a more productive path. He started refocusing on school and on football. By his senior year, Tart was back in California playing football for Taft high before transferring to Dorsey high school to finish his senior year. Following his high school graduation Tart made the Moorpark College football team, playing one season for the Raiders before transferring to SMC.

Tart says he values the opportunities that he has been given at SMC and the team of people that he calls his brothers, all of whom he says work hard; a first for him.

Most importantly, for a player who lives closer to the beach than Moorpark College, the best part about being a Corsair is that his biggest supporter, his mother, can be at the games.

Today, Tart is nursing an MCL injury suffered in a road loss to the Southwestern in San Diego during the second week of the season. The injury has kept him out of action for the past two weeks but shouldn’t keep him sidelined much longer. “I’ll be back to practice next week,” said Tart. “If I’m having a smooth recovery like I’ve been having then I should be good.”

But compared to his past struggles, this injury hardly compares. The kid who once had no hope is a young man in the spotlight, which Tart says is “an adjustment.” “In high school I was the little guy and nobody paid attention. Now everybody is watching every little thing that I do.”

Still, Tart’s present successes haven’t gone to his head. The big man with the huge smile sports the words “underrated” under both wrist tapes before games as a reminder that for all that he’s accomplished he still has a lot to prove.

He says that his focus is on continuing his development and contributing whatever he can to the SMC tradition of winning conference and league titles.

Tart dreams don’t end after college. “I want to go to the NFL,” Tart said. “I want to provide and give my mom better and I know I can if I work hard and don’t quit.” To Tart, education, as well as his play on the field, are important, and he says that he takes every opportunity to make the best impression and not just do the bare minimum. “I try to put twenty dollar words on every paper,” Tart says. “I take every assignment as a challenge to do my best.”

On the field, Tart says he follows his big brother A.G’s example.  “He plays harder than anyone I know,” says Tart. “All out. So, [when I play] I want to hit hard like he hits hard. I want to play every down like he plays every down. I’m the spark plug of my position group.”

It is this work ethic and talent that has earned the starter six division one football scholarship offers. So far, Tart’s path future is secure at Colorado State, Marshall, Alabama-Birmingham, Florida-Atlantic, and Southern Georgia. However, Steven intends to look over only after the season is over, choosing instead to focus on helping SMC win games.

The Corsairs who sport a record of 1-1 are coming off of a bye week with their next game at home against Antelope Valley this Saturday. Though the last game was a loss Steven isn’t worried about the Corsairs defending their conference championship.

“The rest of the season will be great. We just had a hiccup as a team in the last game. The team we played was a bit better than we expected but we’ll get better, and I’m looking forward to that,” Tart said.

No matter how things go Tart believes in putting in the work on the field leaving what comes next to a higher power. “[Before games] I listen to gospel music, it gets me hyped,” said Tart.

“I know that if I go all out on the field [God] has my back. So, I can’t do good, I can’t do bad, I can only do what’s in his will.”