Chandler resident and Arizona Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim had a plan for his future from the time he was a young boy.
“I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, and in that state, football is everything—it’s king,” he says. “As a child, I was just so passionate about the game, to the point where, when I was 9 years old—I’ll never forget this—I walked up to my mom in the kitchen and I said, ‘Mom, you’re not going to have to save any money for my college, because I’m going to get a football scholarship, and then from there I’m going to go on and have an opportunity to play for the NFL, and after that, I’m going to become a general manager for an NFL team.’”
At the time, Keim shares that he was not the best student.
“I’ll never forget… she sort of snickered, and she said, ‘Steve, if you only worked on your math and your science as hard as you study these darn football players, you may be successful one day.’”
So, Keim took that advice to heart, got good grades, and, as anyone who follows football knows, the rest is history.
He had many scholarship offers out of high school, chose North Carolina State University, played football there, and later signed with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
By age 25, he was scouting for the Arizona Cardinals. He’s now been with the organization for 22 years.
In fact, Keim is just one of two general managers throughout all of the NFL who started with the organizations they are now running (Brian Gutekunst with the Green Bay Packers is the other).
“We started at the lowest level, as area scouts, and worked our way up to the highest position in the organization,” he says. “It’s pretty cool because it’s a different feeling; it’s not just a job, it’s sort of in your blood.”
For Keim, his job is a dream come true.
“I thank God every day, I truly do,” he shares. “I can’t even believe I’ve been given this opportunity, and the level of appreciation I have for what I do and the opportunity—I’m just so thankful.”
As thankful as he is, Keim still shares that the job causes its share of stress.
“It’s a results-based business and a challenging business, and it’s really not meant for everybody. You have to have a really thick skin,” he says.
Although he can let those things roll off his back, he worries about his four children.
“They’re getting to an age where they can read and see things on social media, and that’s hard,” Keim says. “But I respect the fact that everyone has opinions and is passionate about this game and what I do, at the end of the day, I just want to make them proud.”
It also is a juggle between keeping the people who work for him, as well as the players, happy, while sometimes having to make decisions that are unpopular.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that the fan doesn’t see behind the scenes,” he says. “It’s not just glamorous to sit here and say, ‘Well, we’re taking Kyler Murray with the first pick’ or ‘ I’m going to trade for Deandre Hopkins.’ That’s just a small piece of the pie of what I do.”
One thing he enjoys is showing off the Valley and Chandler. When potential draftees or free agents come to town, he takes them to restaurants such as Steak 44 or Ocean 44, or in Chandler, to Fleming’s and Pesto’s Italian. He says he also looks forward to taking them to DC Steakhouse’s new location.
Keim has lived in Chandler for nine years, and loves that it has a small-town feel, yet at the same time, continues to grow.
“It’s an area I’m extremely proud to call home,” he says. “When you look at the Valley there are so many nice places to live, but to me, Chandler is, in my opinion, the best because, for a person with children. It’s a great place to raise kids—the education, and the fact that it’s a little greener than other parts of the Valley. … The people that I’ve gotten to know, and the restaurants, are awesome. There are so many caring people who want to see Chandler grow and evolve, and that’s been fun to watch over the past nine years.”
When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys swimming, hiking, taking walks, shopping, and traveling.
Although Keim has a big job that involves tough calls and thick skin, he shares that one thing people would be surprised to know about him is that, “I’m pretty sensitive. They see a big guy and they think you have a tough exterior when really, I’m probably a puppy dog at heart. I can get my feelings hurt easily, and I can cry at a sad movie. Those sort of things are not so macho to say.”
As 2020 comes to a close and the holiday season arrives, he looks back at what the year has brought and shares that, “I think more than anything, COVID has put a lot of things into perspective. It’s having four beautiful kids who are healthy, and to be able to live out a dream for a living. I think to me, every day, I’m so thankful for this opportunity and so appreciative. I really hope that everybody in life gets to experience living out a dream like I have, because to feel the passion is second to none. You hear about people who don’t like their jobs and who hate going to work, and I feel so bad, because I want everybody to experience the joy I’ve experienced in my life.”