DPR’s Steve Bartkowski has been building great things his whole life–but not in the way you might think.
Taken off the board as the No. 1 overall pick of the 1975 National Football League (NFL) Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, the young quarterback from Santa Clara, California started building a strong reputation and relationships early on in his career. He helped resurrect the struggling football program at UC Berkeley, leading the nation in passing yards and becoming a consensus All-American in the process. Bartkowski also became the first client of his pal from the Berkeley dorms–Leigh Steinberg, who went on to represent more star athletes and inspire the film Jerry Maguire.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft, Bartkowski guided the team to its first playoff victory in franchise history over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)
The blessing (and the curse) of being the No. 1 overall pick is that the best collegiate player goes to the worst team in the NFL. No stranger to rebuilding, Bartkowski became the NFL Rookie of the Year, led Atlanta to its first playoff victory in franchise history in 1978 and playoff appearances in 1980 and 1982, setting multiple team records along the way. In his 11 seasons with the Falcons and one season with the Los Angeles Rams, he appeared in two Pro Bowls and threw for over 24,000 passing yards.
After undergoing nine operations over the course of his football career, Bartkowski had failing knees and “literally no gas in the tank,” as he likes to put it. He retired after the 1986 season, and faced the difficult, strange challenge of adjusting to a life without football–all he’d ever known. He served on the Atlanta Falcons’ board of advisors for 13 years, attends almost every home game and occasionally mentors current players.
After retiring from football, Bartkowski took up golfing. From left to right: Bartkowski, John Imlay, Chris Redman and Matt Ryan on a golf trip to Scotland. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)
Close friends with the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, Bartkowski talks about everything other than football with the Super Bowl quarterback who is breaking the passing records he set decades ago. Sharing a love of golf and impacting people’s lives in a positive way, the two have collaborated on community initiatives with organizations, including Children’s Healthcare and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Atlanta.
With the reputation of integrity he built as a player in Atlanta, he was adamant about working for a company he would never have to apologize for and one that he could be proud of like he is of his beloved Falcons. After connecting Jim Dolen, his childhood best friend and one of DPR’s original eight employees, to some construction opportunities in the Southeast, Bartkowski joined the DPR team as one of the first four members of DPR’s Atlanta office. In his client relations/business development role, Bartkowski helps grow relationships with customers.
Bartkowski is joined by Jim and James Dolen at his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)
“I’m now going on my 17th year with DPR, and never once have I had to apologize for anything that we have done. We do what we say we’re going to do, and this team has always made me proud of what we’ve built in the area,” he said.
Bartkowski compares construction to football as the ultimate team sport. His strength is creating conversation starters and building relationships–football is always an easy topic in the South–but he is just one piece of the team. “I’m pretty good at shaking someone’s hand, creating a relationship, and then ‘handing off’ the project to others on the team to execute,” he said. “There are so many people who are passionate about what they do at DPR, and none of them is going to allow the ball to be dropped.”
After hosting outdoor television shows on ESPN and TNN, Bartkowski joined DPR in a business development role. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)
Bartkowski’s sons Phil and Peter followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the DPR family. Phil started in Atlanta, moved to DPR’s Redwood City office and has now relocated to DPR’s Houston office, and Peter worked in the Atlanta office for 11 years–creating lots of fun times at the Bartkowski Thanksgiving table, sharing DPR stories.
One thing Bartkowski learned on the football field is that you’re only as good as the team around you, and he has found a new team at DPR. They might not play football, but they will always have each other’s back, just like his offensive line would protect him from a pass rush.
And just as he helped build the football teams at Cal and Atlanta from the ground up, he helped open a new frontier with DPR Atlanta’s office, which now includes more than 150-employees and recently completed Clemson’s new football operations center and the University of Georgia’s indoor practice facility. Bartkowski has been a football player his whole life; he’s also been a builder…a builder of great things.
A family of builders: Bartkowski’s son Phil (left) joined DPR and now works in the Houston office. (Photo courtesy: Steve Bartkowski)