Coach Steff tribute

(First published in the May 30, 2019 issue of City Pages)

A local video producer has finished a 12-years-in-the-making documentary about hall of fame D.C. Everest Football Coach Wayne Steffenhagen


A screenshot from Paint Me Green, a documentary about D.C. Everest football coach Wayne Steffenhagen that was released this week.

When Wayne Steffenhagen and his wife Sondra moved to the D.C. Everest School District in the early 1980s, they quickly realized something important: a red car simply wouldn’t do.

They found a sign on their car with the message “Paint Me Green,” referring to the school colors of the new school at which he would be coaching.

That’s now the title of a documentary released this week on Wayne Steffenhagen, who coached football at D.C. Everest for 33 years, won 276 games and 18 conference titles. Produced by former D.C. Everest football player Gerald Mortensen, and compiled from 40 hours of footage, users can search for Paint Me Green on YouTube, where it debuted this week.

Mortensen got permission to mic up Coach Steff, as many call him, for the entirety of the 2007 football season, and did so while filming him and working with another videographer to take other footage. Overall, they recorded 40 hours of video, and edited ti over the course of nine months.

The original idea was to pair the film with Steffenhagen’s retirement, assuming it would happen as he hit 30 years. But Steffenhagen persisted, and ended up retiring in 2011 after 33 years coaching Evergreen football. In 2013 he was inducted into the national High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Mortensen told City Pages that the game is changing, as is the style of coaching. The film attempts to capture the last of old school coaching: A harder style that built character and perseverance, and taught players to be mentally tough — something that benefits them in their life outside of football. They’re lessons anyone can benefit from, on or off the field. “It was an effort to capture the last of his kind,” says Mortensen, who founded marketing firm Morty G and the Makers. “It’s not just me, it’s the thousands of men he mentored.”

That became clear to Mortensen when he interviewed the Steffenhagens, who still live in the area. Sondra brought out a big box for every year Steffenhagen coached filled with thank you letters from former players or students of his, as well as clips. “When I started, I thought this was going to be a movie about football,” Mortensen says. But when he saw so many thank you notes from former players and students, he knew it would be about the coach’s impact on his players and students.

In addition to the release, Mortensen says he is exploring having a party with a public showing of the film, and plans to enter the documentary in film festivals.