Truckee siblings cherish time as college football teammates
Late last fall, 2012 Truckee High grad Stein Retzlaff stepped off the Pine Bowl field in Spokane, Wash., with reason to be proud. The senior linebacker had just recorded 18 tackles in his final game for the Lewis & Clark College Pioneers.
The game, coincidentally — a 47-19 loss to the Whitworth Pirates — took place where Retzlaff’s collegiate career essentially began. Primarily a special teams player before the final game of the 2012 season, he replaced an injured teammate in the season finale at Whitworth, made nine tackles and went on to start every remaining game in his career.
In four seasons Retzlaff tallied 263 tackles, including 101 his final season, the most for Lewis & Clark since Chris Stokes had 103 in 2003. Retzlaff was the Northwest Conference’s leading tackler his senior season with 11.2 per game, which earned him a selection to the All-Conference Second Team.
Retzlaff’s teams won just five games in four seasons, and only one since Sept. 26, 2012. The Pioneers were 0-18 during Retzlaff’s junior and senior years.
“I came from never losing a game in my varsity career at Truckee High to a new team where we had to fight for every inch we played for,” he said.
Prior to the 2015 season, however, the Pioneers hired national championship-winning head coach Jay Locey to change the trajectory of the program, and throughout the season, Locey credited the seniors for laying the foundation for the program’s future success.
The coming years are particularly important to Retzlaff, as a special teammate of his still has two seasons left to play for the Pioneers — younger brother Thor.
“Playing alongside my brother has been an opportunity I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Stein said. “As seniors in Coach Locey’s first year, we knew we had to lay a solid foundation and confidence among the incoming classes.
“They are the future of our program, and my goal ever since I started my career was and has been to leave Lewis & Clark better than when I got there.”
Thor, who graduated from Truckee in 2014, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first game of his freshman season. The injury did not hold him down, however, as he bounced back with a successful sophomore campaign.
“Getting injured in the first game freshman year really took the air and enthusiasm out of my will to play football,” Thor said. “Emotions ran so high because I struggled with injuries throughout high school. This past season meant so much to me because not only did I get to play with my brother, but I made it through an entire season healthy.”
As a sophomore, Thor joined the starting linebacking corps and finished in the top five with 37 tackles for Lewis & Clark.
Stein echoed Thor’s sentiment about the importance of family in his life, which made the opportunity to play collegiate football alongside his brother all the more special.
The connection also served as an extension for Stein from his Truckee days. The teachings of coaches Bob Shaffer, Josh Ivens, Tom Mohun, Rick Wilson and the late Mike Ellis have remained impactful in his life.
“I would have never been the man I am today without the guidance, help and criticisms from all my coaches, mentors, teachers and especially my loving parents,” Stein said.
Stein’s accomplishments off the Lewis & Clark football field have been equally impressive.
Along with friends Erich Roepke and Hunter Meece, Stein co-founded Intrepid Resource Management, IRM, LLC, an innovative aluminum and recycled materials transportation company. The trio earned a $20,000 start-up grant through Lewis & Clark’s Incubator and Launch Seed Fund, and Stein and Roepke plan to begin a new venture in film following graduation.
No matter where the road takes him, Stein plans to remain involved with Lewis & Clark.
“The Lewis & Clark football program is an extremely special group,” Stein said. “Although I may not be able to make every game, I’ll watch online and keep in touch with Thor. We act as both brothers and best friends, so we will definitely keep each other updated on everything we are doing.”
— Sierra Sun Sports Editor Sylas Wright contributed to this story.