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Ryan McBean, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 2007

September 14, 2014
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First, can you let readers know what the Right At Home business- how you got started and what your role is there?

Right At Home, is locally owned Franchise, of Right At Home Inc, Our office is located in the North Dallas Metroplex which assists seniors and disabled adults, who need further care in their home. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those we serve.

My grandmother played a influential role in my life, and in her final years I hired a caregiver to assist her with her daily needs. After she passed, I decided I wanted to play a role in my local community in which I grew up and played football, and bring a sense of peace and joy, to those in need like my grandmother.

Some of the largest fan bases for football are seniors. In this past year rehabbing, I have frequently played a role volunteering in nursing homes, and senior communities to do football trivia, and teach healthy living practices. I assist with the day-to-day operations while also training for football.

What about your time in the NFL and with the Steelers helped prepare you for this role – and did the NFL in general offer post-NFL career help that got you started?

I learned so much from Coach John Mitchell, that the game was a business, and it about producing and picking the right people to accomplish your goals. His approach I have taken with me to every team and this business.

My employees are my team, and we have to give great service everyday, that sense of urgency that Coach John Mitchell instilled in me, I practice at Right at Home and on the field. Our office motto, on every wall reads, Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) – we believe in it and so do our employees. We are the Right People, doing the right things, for the right reasons.

You were drafted by the Steelers in round four in 2007. Were you surprised to be drafted by Pittsburgh and how competitive was that defensive line corps with the likes of Aaron Smith, Nick Eason, Casey Hampton, Travis Kirschke, to name a few…?

I wasn’t surprised to be drafted, I worked very hard to get to that point. Working with the D-Line with such great guys they emphasized the importance of having a great work ethic – and yes it was very competitive, and i loved that.

Who were the players on the team that helped mentor you as a younger player, and how did they do so? Any examples? And how did it help you specifically?

All the guys on the D-line were influential with their daily inputs about how to approach the game, and how to transition from college to the NFL. These daily inputs from the d-line, I would say were like a impromptu class lesson, where I learned how to become a man, and to master the 3-4 defense. Each person gave their life lessons, and real experiences which set the picture as great mentors for a new player.

How difficult was it for you to adjust to the 3-4 defense? Did you feel it suited your skill set and was it frustrating adapting to that defense, or did you feel comfortable doing so?

The 3-4 defense, was something I hadn’t done before in college but I knew with practice and repetition, it would no longer be a challenge. The 3-4 was suited for my body type, skill set, and my physicality upfront.  I enhanced my skills of the  3-4 under my tenure with the Denver Broncos.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples?

Chris Hoke, would do his Hoke dance before practice and Casey Hampton, was a guy with a great sense of humor about life and his teammates.

In 2008 you were released and ended up in Denver where you played for four years. Was the release a surprise to you and was it frustrating, or did you feel it was better for you even then?

No, it wasn’t a surprise. l always remembered the last words Coach Mike Tomlin stated, that he would see me again. He did, after my team, (Broncos) beat them in the regular season,  knocking them out of the playoffs.

Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against, both on and off the field, and what made them so. Any examples?

The NFL is filled with good offensive linemen, some you can have your way with, and some you can have a hard time with. I cant remember them all but Bobby Williams,Marshal Yanda from the Baltimore Ravens and Nick Hardwick from the Chargers, were great offensive lineman. I am a firm believer in self, no one off the field intimidates me.

What advice would you give younger players today coming into the NFL with the same sort of skillsets you came into the league with?

I would tell them to practice their craft everyday, never get comfortable,

Any last thoughts for readers?

In life you learn more from your failures than your success. My time in Pittsburgh was a failure for me , but it propelled me to be a better player, and a better man  from the lessons learned. You can use that in any course of life.

Zamir Cobb, Steelers Wide Receiver, 2004

September 7, 2014
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First, can you let readers know about Players Trust - what it is, and what you do for the program as Program Manager?

The Trust is an organization committed to the overall health and well- being of all former players. With customized gameplans (goals and objectives), The Trust meets each former player where he is in his transition. In other words, we understand that the needs and interest of each player is unique and, as such, the approach to second career success is individualized. Through partnerships we provide access to career, medical, nutrition, entrepreneurial and continuing education services — all benefits players earned.

How did you get involved with the program and what about your experiences playing football helped prepare you for this?

I discovered the job posting on the NFLPA Job Opportunities Board. After reading the qualifications, I was convinced that my background and experience favored success in the position. More specifically, as it relates to the question, my experience as a player helped prepare me to serve former players as they embark on their journey toward second career success. When assisting players in their transition from the NFL, I often draw upon my attempts to redefine my sense of purpose, direction, and motivation during this trying period of my life. The prospective afforded by my experiences promotes an empathetic, non-judgmental, and strengths based approach to servicing players.

How can fans get involved with Players Trust?

Fans can like us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You signed with the Steelers in 2004 as an undrafted free agent in 2004. What made you decide to sign on with the Steelers especially when they were so deep at receiver with Ward, Randle El, Washington, Mays, and Wilson?

I made the decision to sign with the Steelers because it is where I felt I would be given the best opportunity to prove my skills. Despite the enormity of talent at the receiver position, I felt I could be a dynamic addition to the pack.

How competitive were the receivers with one another for passes and playing time and how did they help you as young player learning the game?

To be a Steeler you have no option other than to compete at a high level. The vets were extremely helpful in my effort to learn the game. I received tutelage from both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If they think you can play, they assist you in your effort to be a good player.

Who helped mentor you most as a rookie and helped you to adjust to life as a Steeler and as a resident of the city? How did they do so?

From what I can recall, Randal El was most helpful on the field as we had a similar style of play. That is not to say that Hines and the others did not do so as well. Charlie Batch and Mike Logan were most helpful in helping me adjust to the city. They provided advice regarding where to go for necessities and the best places to take my family. I actually lived a block from Mike in the Hill District. The assistance that was provided by the vets is much appreciated.

2004 was Roethlisberger’s first season. How did his arrival impact the team from your perspective – how did the veteran quarterbacks and receivers adjust to a first round quarterback entering the picture?

Ben seemed to provide a breath of fresh air. His unwavering enthusiasm was contagious and his energy provided a spark. After Ben proved he could play, the adjustment by the vets is best described as fluid. Simply put, the Steelers adjust well to any player that can get the job done and it was more than evident that Ben was one of those players.

Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against both in practice and on game days? What made them so?

Well, the receivers were light on hits during practice, so, there was very little to be afraid of. Unfortunately, my injuries kept me from competing against the games most feared defenders. There was a time I had to block Joey Porter coming off the end in practice and I recall a coach saying “die with dignity”. Joey took it light and I survived.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples of the hijinks?

Too many of the jokes made in the locker room need context to repeat. This is not to say that we were brutal or politically incorrect. I’ll just say that we were a team that enjoyed one another and it was like family.

How difficult was it for you leaving the Steelers and moving on to play for Arizona. And what were the major differences between those two teams and organizations, from your perspective?

It was one the most difficult transitions in my life. While it is a privilege to be a part of any NFL team, to be a Steeler is mythical. Playing for such a historical winner and associating myself with the greatness of past and present Steelers was an honor. I only wish that I was smarter about how I handled my injuries.

Injuries had an impact on your time in Pittsburgh. What advice would you give younger players today knowing a career can end on one play?

If you’re hurt, say you’re hurt. If your team asks you to go on the injury list, do so. And, if your team recommends you take an exit physical, do so. There is no positive outcome to being dishonest about injuries.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I thank those that created a Zamir Cobb jersey during training camp when I was just a rookie free agent trying to make the team. I thank the Steelers for making every attempt to make me feel a part of the team as I struggled through injuries. I don’t know of a nation that is as strong, vast, and committed as Steeler nation. Go Steelers!

Barry Foster, Steelers Running Back, 1990-1994

August 31, 2014
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First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days, and how you got involved?

I’m here in Dallas, Texas – I’m a middle-school physical education teacher. I really like having the opportunity to work with younger athletes – to help influence them to stay fit physically and be competitive in whatever sport they choose.

What coaches and coaching lessons did you find yourself falling back on as a coach?

I had great coaches all throughout my time playing football. High school, college, and the NFL. I just wanted to have them me the best that their ability can give me. I have to remind myself that these aren’t high school or college kids. I have to be realistic in what they can and can’t do and help them to compete at the level they are at. Some never competed at an organized level before, so I’m just asking them to give me they best they can give.

You left school as a Junior to go pro – what drove that decision?

A couple reasons, really. The primary reason was that, as an inner-city kid, I needed the increase in money. I needed the economic benefit. I was in a single-parent household and wanted to help my mom. That was the driving force behind the decision. Also, my head coach, the one who recruited me, left for Clemson. The entire coaching staff was leaving and I knew the nee head coach and wasn’t fond of him. That helped my decision.

You were drafted by the Steelers in the 5th round in 1990. At the time Worley, Hoge and Williams were also on the roster. Were you worried then about playing time and getting carries? How did you finally break through and do so?

I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t see the Steelers drafting me – I thought it was going to be the Browns. They called me during the draft and said they were going to take me in round two – that was their first pick of the draft then – they didn’t have a first round pick that year. When they got up to the podium, they said fullback and I thought, there I was. But they selected Leroy Hoard from Michigan instead. I was shocked – they just told me they were going to take me. I was disappointed and left my dorm room. Three rounds later the Steelers called and took me. I didn’t know anything about who was on the roster – I just wanted to make the team.

How competitive was that group of running backs – were you close and helpful to one another or was it more competitive?

It was an extremely talented group. Remember, I was a fullback then. Hoge was a guy I looked at a lot to see what he was doing. Williams and Worley were there – Rodney Carter too. All brought different things. Worley was big and fast. Hoge was big and powerful. Carter could catch the ball well. I was just trying to find my opportunity. as a power running back.

All the guys were competitive though. there was only one guy that stopped to help me – Rodney Carter. He helped me personally – showed me how to understand the plays and practice better. Walton just came over that year as the new offensive coordinator from the Jets – so everyone was really learning his system. Carter showed me how to practice and run plays. he and Dick Hoak helped me the most – the other guys wanted to keep their jobs.

Dick was partial to Merrill Hoge. He really liked Merrill, but he was a professional and made sure we were all prepared.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples?

I was just on a Steelers cruise a few months back with Lloyd and Dawson talking about some of this. We had one of the best locker rooms you could ask for. Tons of guys that were funny, talented….Worley was great at impersonating people. McAfee was a trip. Gary Jones was funny. We all told jokes and made people laugh. It was understood – the unwritten rule was that no one was untouchable – if you did something stupid you would be laughed at, and if you did something good you’d be appreciated. No one was protected.

We had so many veterans. My locker was next to Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake – we all relied on the leadership on that team.

One thing I remember – Lloyd, me and Dawson talked about this. We had a game we started in the locker room. Trash can basketball. We’d take a ball of coaches tape and shoot baskets in the trash can. It started off as a couple guys – went to six or so then the whole team started playing it. Guys were losing money, getting very competitive…. It was just a great bonding experience.

In ’92 you took over as the starter and had a big season – including a huge total of over 425 times carrying the ball via rushes/receptions.  Did you feel at the time “overused”, and how do you feel having such a huge workload affected your career long-term?

No – I didn’t have any concerns – I didn’t feel overused. I had two years of ball under Noll and Walton in their tight end oriented offense. They had their favorites like Merrill – they wanted him to do everything at the time. Worley, Williams were there and we were all frustrated at not getting the ball.

In ’92 Ron Earhardt came in from the Giants – they just won Super Bowl under Parcells. He wanted to run the ball more. And remember, then I was still a fullback, but they gave me a shot. and I had success. So I wasn’t disappointed at being overused at all. I was happy I finally got the carries.

Why did they finally give you a shot at running back?

I think, from what I was told, when Cowher and Earhardt came in they were concerned about the position – it was thin then. Worley had been suspended, and the other guys showed some flashes but that was it. They just asked to take a look at me at running back. They were desperate more than anything I think. I had shown some glimpses before and they tried it. It was as much blind luck as anything.

’92 was also the year Coach Cowher took over for Coach Noll. How did the team handle that transition, and from your perspective, what were the biggest adjustments the team had to make due to the change, and how did it do so?

We were all ready for the change with Cowher, at least most of us. It took a while for a few people to get used to it. It’s just a sense I got. Chuck was  a great coach and did so many great things for the organization. But we felt like we needed to be more competitive  We finished third in the division behind Cincinnati and Houston. We had the talent, but no one liked the tight-end focused offense, except maybe {tight end} Eric Green. No one liked the plays. We’d get in the huddle and when a play was called we knew it wouldn’t work. It was too complicated.

When Bill came in, the first thing he did was unify the team. From the outside, you don’t see or understand it. We were a divided team. The practices were divided. It was always the offense versus the defense. When the offense messed up, the defense yelled at us, and we did the same when they messed up. Even the coaches. The defense had free reign to hit us in practice under Noll – even late. It was Noll’s way of trying to instill toughness in everyone. After Cowher came in, I remember one day in practice a receiver, I think it was Calloway, got crushed by Lloyd. Cowher blew the whistle and yelled at Lloyd. He brought all of us in then – had us all take a knee and told us we can’t do this. It brought the whole team together. From there we started getting it – that this was going to be different from what we were used to.

In ’94, you were traded to Carolina. How surprised were you over the trade, and how upset as well? What did the Steelers coaches/front office tell you about the trade?

I was surprised and disappointed, yeah. I saw the writing on the wall though. In the ’95 season I had a $2.5 million price tag and Bam Morris had a $500k price tag, and we had split carries in ’94 with the same output because of my injuries. So from just the yardage standpoint, we were the same. I thought I’d get one more year to help keep stability there and be kept one more year, but that didn’t happen. I wasn’t angry -just disappointed and surprised.

What advice would you give younger players today coming into the NFL with the same sort of skillsets you came into the league with? And why?

It’s hard to give advice now that the game has changed so much. I’d say just make sure you are the best teammate you can be, be committed to the team and enjoy your time. That’s in the end all you have. Enjoy every moment – enjoy the ride…

Richard Huntley, Steelers Running Back, 1998-2000

August 24, 2014
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First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career. Tell us how you get started and why?

Well,  since I left football I got remarried and had two kids – two little girls. So, I’m taking care f my family.

I started coaching high school football – that was big for me, getting back to doing what I did for most of my life – football. I like teaching kids – showing them how to take advantage of opportunities -that all you want is possible. I’m living proof.

I’m also doing a lot of personal training here as well in the Charlotte area. That keeps me real busy too so now I have to decide whether I want to do that more or stay in coaching. I love working with the kids though so I probably will look to keep coaching.

What coaches and coaching lessons do you find yourself falling back on now as a coach?

On of my big things was to always be straight up with the kids. To not beat around the bush. Bill Cowher never did that either. He always told you straight up exactly the way it was. I am the same way. You have to be you as a coach. Be direct. Just like Bill – in Pittsburgh there were no half ways. He’d tell you exactly the way it is and the way it should be done.  Its the same structure I have with the kids in high school. It’s a bit different since they are kids, but they know once I give it to them straight. It makes it easier for them.

In ’98, you came to the Steelers after a brief stint in Atlanta. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh, and what did you think your role would be there?

I had no clue about the other running backs on the team then. I had no clue who was there. I was just looking for a job. Pittsburgh was one of the terms that wanted to draft me in ’96 but they traded for Bettis instead, and once that happened they went for offensive linemen in the draft. I just wanted to play football. I had visits set up with Baltimore, the Redskins and Pittsburgh. I worked out for Pittsburgh first and never made it to Baltimore. I knew about the tradition but didn’t honestly care who I played for. But I  got there and said these people here love football.  It was just like college again where everyone loved their team. That’s why I loved it there. Atlanta….they just didn’t care for football as much there.

There was a very deep backfield then – with Bettis, McAfee, Fuamatu-Ma’afala,…how did everyone get along and handle the competition for playing time-  and did any of those guys help mentor you?

We realized there was only one football but several guys that wanted it. As a group, we knew that if you got a chance you better make it happen. We never looked at it as a competition collectively. Jerome got his 20-25 carries and the rest of us had eight-to-ten carries. We knew that if we didn’t make the best of those they’d go to elsewhere. So we were competitive, but in a good way.

Who helped mentor you both on the field and off the field when you got to Pittsburgh?

No one really helped mentor me on the field – we all just worked together and learned from each other. I never liked Jerome – and he didn’t like me. He wrote about me and faking his injury because of me in his book which was BS.  I threatened Jerome – I could do things that he couldn’t and he didn’t like that. So he and I, we never got along.

For off the field, when I left Atlanta, I saw the different things people were doing outside of football. What guys were doing in there break time. I looked aro0und. I did the same thing in Pittsburgh – saw what players were doing in their down time. They’d play games, read books and newspapers… So I started talking to Dermontti Dawson and Mike Tomczak. They were ready to leave the game and we talked about what they were going to do after football. The young guys don’t think about that. I talked to Dermontti a lot about that – I wanted to be in their situation financially and emotionally. I didn’t want to fall into it all being just about football.

One guy I talked to a lot also in Atlanta was Craig Heyward. We’d talk in the sauna about football. I was from a small college and was superstar there. I didn’t know about going to the NFL and being just a guy. Craig would tell me that they’d cut me! I didn’t understand that. He educated me that they didn’t care about you personally. I didn’t understand that until he sat me down and schooled me. Then I saw it around me – four or five guys that were next to me were out. Then I knew it was a what have you done for me lately business. There was no other way.

What were the major differences you found between the Steelers organizations and the others you played for – Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, etc…

The biggest difference was the people in Pittsburgh. They make you love football. Going to Carolina was a big mistake. I felt like my career was at a high in Pittsburgh. Then it went to a low. I was confused about my place in the game then I went to Pittsburgh and I knew what my place and role was. When I went to Carolina I had expectations but never got the chance to fulfill them. I never got an opportunity. The coaching staff there didn’t communicate. The head coach didn’t communicate well with players. In Pittsburgh you knew what  Bill was thinking because he’d come right at you and tell you! I knew my role there.

In Carolina I wanted to escalate my career. I was projected to be a starter but didn’t get to play. They never gave me a reason- never gave me an answer when I asked them. That’s when I started hating football and was ready to call it quits.

Buffalo was the total opposite again. The organization and the people loved football. It made me want to play and work harder. I’d go all out for them. But I was traded to Detroit – another organization that didn’t care about winning – they just cared about getting people in the stands.

Tee Martin in an interview with him (http://pittsburghsportsdailybulletin.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/tee-martin-steelers-quarterback-2000-2001 /) said you were one of the funnier guys on the team. Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities?

I went there to play football, but for me, sports was also about making friends and relationships with teammates. I like to laugh and have a good time with teammates. I grew up in the country – I knew everyone there. We had a good time with and we had each others’ backs. In the NFL that changes, but my personality, I still wanted that. Me and FU (Fuamatu-Ma’afala), we still talk two-three times a month. He’s a great guy and we’re good friends.

When you have a bunch of men together, a half of a year or more  – more time then they spend with their families 0- you pull pranks and jokes. On a daily basis, we pull jokes – pranks, hiding stuff from each other, taking someone’s car, messing with rookies….It wasn’t any one thing and it never went too far. It was all just for fun….

What are your favorite moments as a Steeler?

In Pittsburgh, I enjoyed my three-four years. It was a learning experience. I got an opportunity to play the game and show people I could play. I got a chance to do it. There was nothing negative – or even if something negative happened we were positive about it. I hated it when I left – I would have taken a pay cut then to have been released. But I was released because of the salary cap. They kept Jerome and gave him a big salary so there wasn’t room left in the cap

Any last thoughts for readers?

Take advantage of every opportunity. In Pittsburgh I got a chance and tried to make the best of every situation I had. I knew what I was there for. Now I get to do what I do and give back in the same manner ion which I was given.

Noah Herron, Steelers Running Back, 2005

August 17, 2014
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First, can you let readers know what you are up to these days and how you got started in this new career?

I am currently working for an Industrial Supply company called Grainger.  I am a Territory Sales Rep and I have about 500 accounts in my package.  I actually was contacted by a recruiter for Grainger, we had an initial conversation and then moved through the interview process.  I believe the Lord brought that job to me as I praying about which direction I should go in my next career.

How did your experiences in the NFL help you in this new direction?

A lot of the experiences I had in the NFL are similar but different to what goes on in my new career.  First there is teamwork; teamwork, team building and role responsibility is huge in the corporate world and employers really enjoy those who have a good concept of it.  Competition; competition with other companies within the industry and also competition between teammates to push and make each other better.  Pace is the last ill comment about.

The NFL is such a fast paced industry and a whole year happens in 6 months, in the business world I am in, it takes time to build and nourish these business relationships and it might be months or even a year before you see the fruit of that labor.  Far different from the NFL!

As a seventh round pick, there are no guarantees you make the team – especially when the team had a deep running back  corps with Bettis, Parker, Haynes, and Staley there as well. What did you do to catch the coaches’ eyes and find a place on the roster?

First let me comment on the fact that, whether you’re the first pick or the last pick, it is an honor and a privilege to be drafted by any professional team.  Its a credit to each player’s hard work and dedication and should not be taken lightly.

As a seventh round pick I was what some colleagues and I have referred to as being a “minimum wage” player.  Simply identifying that my job is not a guarantee but i need to come each and everyday to work and earn my living.  The best thing I can say I did was listen.  The talent was already there, that is why they picked me, but it was my ability to be a smart and talented player that really helped me stick out.

As a practice squad player, what was your role on the team and was it frustrating not getting the playing time you would have liked?

There was a certain frustration to being on the practice squad.  I started the year on the active roster and in week 4 was moved down for injuries at another position.  There was frustration but the window of opportunity in the NFL is so short that you have to make the best of every opportunity.  I just tried to get better every week as a player, I had the opportunity to go against first defense everyday and I wanted to take full advantage of not wasting time and reps.

Who on the Steelers team helped mentor you and help you adjust most to the NFL and the team culture? And what were some of the biggest things you learned from guys like Bettis, Parker and Staley?

I would say that Jerome was the one who really took a liking to me.  We had some similarities that allowed us to find some common ground and build upon that (both being from Michigan and me being a big and him a bigger back with quick feet!).  He just told me straight up that he had been in this league a long time and he had the knowledge of how to navigate it, all I had to do was listen.  So  I listened.

As you developed in your career and became the mentor to younger players (versus the one mentored), was it difficult to adjust to that role knowing some of these guys are out to take your job? And do you think that helped you appreciate more the help you received from those other players years before?

Whether you are mentor or mentee, someone is always trying to take your job.  That’s part of the realities and parodies of the NFL.  Getting 53 guys competing for the same jobs and still becoming a selfless team or teammate…it is one of the reasons it makes football such a unique sport.  You hope your play is good enough to keep your job while at the same time doing like Jerome did, and investing the knowledge he had into me to help me be successful. And I did appreciate it because I have seen it where nobody will help anybody to try to secure their own jobs.

You were signed off of the practice squad by green Bay in 2005. Were you surprised and/or happy about that roster move?

Correct, Green Bay did sign me off of the Steelers practice squad.  I honestly was torn, as I felt like Pittsburgh was becoming my home and that I had a place there.  I go back to what I had said before, the window of opportunity is so short that its hard to pass up on promises in the future (as a “minimum wage” player).

I bounced the idea off of Jerome and Coach Cowher, both expressed their love for me being a part of the team but that the NFL is a business and regardless of what they wanted that I need to make the best decision for me and my future. And that was playing the last five games on the active roster in Green Bay and not on the Steelers practice squad.

You read a lot about the loss of leadership on the current Steelers team as it looks to transition from veterans to younger players. Who were the leaders on the Steelers teams you played for and how did they assert themselves as leaders?

It was a unique group of leaders that isn’t typical I believe in the NFL.  There was great veteran leadership at most all positions which allowed for us young guys to watch and learn how to be a pro.  Offensively we had Jerome, Hines, Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca and Duce who really took leadership roles.  Defensively we had James Farrier, Joey Porter, Kimo and DeShea Townsend.

So we had an extremely experienced group of leaders on our team who asserted themselves vocally and on the field.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so – any examples of the hijinks/personalities?

With so many veteran egos in that locker room it was like Real World Pittsburgh in there.  That’s all I have to say!

You played for six teams over your five year career in the NFL. What kind of toll does that take on you mentally and do you think fans appreciate the struggles that many players go through to find career security?

There is a certain struggle that comes with being an NFL player, no ones story or path is the same.  We all took our own unique way to get there.  I think you just get used to that kind of pressure, its really part of the culture for players and coaches alike.  I was fortunate to play three years in the same place so more than half of my career came with a small sense of security.

But it is always a grind and never easy, fans should always remember what players have had to give up and endure to get to where they are and not be so critical of what they do have once they’ve gotten there.

What were some of the biggest differences you found between Pittsburgh, Green Bay and the other organizations you played for, from your perspective?

Unfortunately I will have admit that Green Bay has the best fans in the NFL, but Steeler fans are a close second.  There’s nothing better for a player to see and know that his city and community are supporting them even through years that don’t end in holding up the Lombardi Trophy.   I will comment on the fact the Pittsburgh and Green Bay are both first class organizations and the fans should be proud to have them as their home team.

Nick Eason, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 2007-2010

August 10, 2014
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First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career plans. Tell us how and why you get started as a coach and how Tennessee differs from other organizations you’ve been involved with?

I just really retired – my last year playing was 2013 – hasn’t even been a complete year yet. I saw an opportunity to sign up for the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Program and applied to three teams – Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Cleveland. I was excited to be selected by Cleveland and in August I was brought in for two weeks, I’m the type of guy that will give you my all and work hard – go above and beyond. I worked hard and was computer savvy too – I could draw up the plays on the software they used and they liked that. They asked me to stay another two weeks after the first two weeks of the program ended. I helped coach the defensive line and the other defensive coaches. It was a great learning experience.

I’m so thankful for that opportunity. I was scheduled t0 leave at the end of the season – the internship was over. So I went home for a few weeks and was trying to figure out what to do next when I got a call from Ken Wisenhunt in Tennessee. I had a good relationship with him – I played for him in Arizona and Pittsburgh. He called me up and asked if I’d be interested in coaching there and the rest is history. I’m an assistant coach here and I’m loving it.

What coaches and coaching lessons have stuck with you now as a coach and influenced your coaching style – and why?

You know, it’s everyone. I tell the guys here that want to be a coach someday that it’s not just about the work you put in on the field. It’s your preparation in the classroom, the evaluations and paperwork you need to do for scouts and general managers. And its even the computer knowledge and skills – to be able to do it all.

And I’m a good motivator too. I know the right things to say to get people going.

You signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 2007 after a year in Denver and two in Cleveland. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh – especially as they had a deep defensive line corps with Smith, Hampton, Kirschke, Hoke, and Keisel?

When I came to Pittsburgh from Cleveland it was after three tough years in Cleveland. It was an honor to come to Pittsburgh and play for four years. I was excited when I got the call – I knew I wanted to be there before I even got there. I knew the history and when I got the call I knew I wanted to be there.

Any good-natured grief from players, having signed from division rival Cleveland?

Just from the fans in Cleveland when I returned. they weren’t nice, those greetings when I went back. They fans would call me names from the stands…. But it changed my life. The opportunity to play and win a Super Bowl, the great relationships with the players and fans….I’m still close to a lot of those players still.

How hard was the adjustment to the 3-4 for you?

It wasn’t that hard to adjust to the 3-4. I was a student of the game and it was all bout technique. I was athletic and smart enough to adjust. Denver and in college, I played in a 4-3, but if you love the game and study and work hard, if you’re a professional, you adjust.

Who on the Steelers team helped mentor you and help you adjust to the Steelers “way of doing things” and the city? And how hard was the adjustment for you?

I learned so much from all of those guys on the defensive line – Kirschke, Hoke, Casey Hampton, Keisel, Aaron Smith…. We were all brothers. Accountability  was the big thing – they just elevated my game watching them play and seeing those guys handle their responsibilities on the field, taking on gaps and being where they were supposed to be,  Defensive Line Coach John Mitchell taught the simple things – technique, and unselfish play. I never wanted to let those guys down – I knew I had to be on my gaps like they were.

All those guys were like brothers. They all took me in and showed me the Steelers way.

That was Pittsburgh’s first year under new coach Mike Tomlin. From your vantage point as a new player, how did you see the team adjusting to the new coach – how did the players adapt and what was his approach?

It was different I could tell, but I didn’t know any different since I wasn’t there before. Everyone loved Mike. He did things Mike’s way. It was his time. It took some adjusting for some guys. One coach does things one way and then another does it his own way. Both ways make sense you just need time to adjust to the new way.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities?

You’re talking to one of them! I had a good impersonation of Dick LeBeau. He liked it too. He could attest to that. I did it during training camp – all would be quiet and listen to me do my  thing. I’d do it on the bus too, would take the microphone and do my thing…

All the defensive backs had personalities too – Taylor, McFadden, Gay, Troy, Madison…..Defensive backs always do….

You left in free agency for Arizona in 2011 . How hard was that for you to leave and what was the culture like in Arizona, given that there were so many ex-Steelers on the roster then?

It was tough to leave.  I had success there but it was time to move on. It was difficult being in a new environment – but back then Arizona was known as Pittsburgh West. Wisenhunt, Haggans I was friendly with, Porter – I knew those guys pretty well. It made the adjustment easier but it was tough to leave Pittsburgh.

But you know, you can go anywhere and succeed if you go to the right place .Teams that are successful are the ones that have those winning characteristics. Teams you know are consistent. And I felt Wisenhunt was doing a great job in Arizona turning things around. I was excited to be a part of his defense and turn it around there. We struggled that first season, but we did well afterwards.

What are your favorite moments as a Steeler?

I think my best moment was at halftime, being down 24-7 to Baltimore in the playoffs. I knew we were going to win that game. I trusted our offense and knew we could win. To win the game and go to the Super Bowl was terrific. We knew we could win – we had that confidence.

Jason Capizzi, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 2007-2008

August 3, 2014
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First, can you let readers know what about the Golden Equipment Company - how you got started and what your role is there?

Golden Equipment is a large commercial equipment dealer that sells to different public works offices and contractors in the states of WV, PA, and NJ.  We sell many different product lines but our top three are Street Sweepers, Sewer Camera Inspection equipment, and Sewer Cleaners.  I am currently the Vice-President/General Manager of this 30 year family-owned business.  The gentleman who is the owner of Golden Equipment contacted me in December 2013 and said that his Vice President just moved on to greener pastures and he is looking for someone to take over his company and manage the sales aspect and everyday operations.

Before Golden Equipment I was working as an outside sales rep for Guardian Protection Systems, selling security systems residentially.  I loved my time at Guardian but didn’t want to be in the field selling every night.  I was looking for an opportunity to better my life and make my presence known in the business world.

What about your time in the NFL and with the Steelers helped prepare you for this role – and did the NFL in general offer post-NFL career help that got you started?

The NFL teaches you the entire spectrum of how business and politics work in life.  Being that I was an undrafted free agent from a D2 college you get to really see how sometimes it has nothing to do with talent level.  That is something that really helps with the industry I’m in.  Sometimes we are low bid on a piece of equipment by a substantial amount and ours is ten-fold better than the competition, but they will still buy the competition for no good reason.

Another thing that the NFL has taught me that helps in my career now is that you will not win them all, especially in sales.  Just as an offensive lineman can attest, you will not win every one on one battle out on the field.  No one is ever perfect, and if you play a perfect game you should retire then and there because you will never duplicate it again.  Same as in sales, you win some you lose some.  Not just the NFL but football in general teaches you toughness to fight through adversity and keep on moving forward regardless of circumstances that arise.

You were/also are playing in the United Football League for the Las Vegas Locomotives. How has this experience been for you and tell us about the UFL league in general.

Playing in the UFL was so much fun.  I really wish that league had the financial backing to make it and stay around longer.  The UFL was built as a league to eventually become the minor league for the NFL. When the NFL said they want nothing to do with it, it eventually collapsed on itself.  There were many guys that wanted to get back into the NFL and others who never got an initial chance to do so.  After trying my hand at the NFL and being a backup for so many years all I wanted to do was “play”.  To just go out there have fun and win games.  From that standpoint it was great.  Not as much pressure and we just enjoyed ourselves every day.

It didn’t hurt that we were living in Las Vegas all expenses paid while playing in the UFL either.

You were picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Steelers in 2007. What made you decide to sign with the Steelers and how exciting was it for you to sign with your local team, having gone to high school in Gibsonia at college at IUP?

I had gotten calls in the fourth round of the draft on from many different teams but for some reason none of them had pulled the trigger and drafted me.  When the draft was over I was a PFA for eight different teams, one of them being the Steelers.  Being that I was a lifelong Steelers fan and my father had season tickets to games since 1972 I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play for the hometown team.  Getting the opportunity to sit next to guys I watched and looked up to my entire life was something that every young man in Pittsburgh  dreams of. Walking out of that tunnel and looking up at my parents in the very seats that I used to sit in was a special feeling that can never be duplicated.

Who were the players on the team that helped mentor you as a younger player, and how did they do so? Any examples? And how did it help you specifically?

The NFL is such a business and so cutthroat that it is sometimes tough to look up to someone as a mentor while on the team because it is every man for himself. So from that aspect you really had to just work with the coaches and try and better yourself everyday on your own.  Don’t get me wrong though, there were many guys on the team who I considered friends that would always pick you up when you were down and help out with different techniques to make you a better player.  Some examples would be Max Starks, Trai Essex, and Charlie Batch.

How competitive was the offensive line corps for playing time, and how helpful were your peers?

The offensive line was very difficult to make any headway with the Steelers.  There is a ton of seniority and coming out of a D2 school no one really expects you to do much.  I was not given as much playing time as I would’ve liked but all I know is every day in practice and in preseason games I gave it my all and tried to get better each day.  In the end I am not mad at all because I left it all on the field.  What happens in the coaches office for playing time is out of our hands and we can only control what is done when we are in there playing.

Your teammates are helpful to a certain extent but in the long run everyone is fighting to make the team themselves and it is tough to trust what someone else is telling you because you never know if they are giving you false information to make you look bad.

Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples?

The locker room on an NFL team is very comparable to the Improv Comedy Club on a Friday night.  It is nothing but pranks and jokes and things that will keep guys laughing for hours.  It is a time for guys to let loose because it is such a business at all other times we could just be ourselves and have fun.  I cannot divulge any different scenarios that happened in there because that is against the unwritten rules of what goes on in there but between the stories told, and the silly games being played it is always a place that I miss very much.

Other than the paychecks we made, and playing in front of the hometown fans, the locker room and the camaraderie that you share with guys is one of the biggest things I miss the most about football.  Some of your biggest pranksters in there were Ben, Scott Paxson, Hines, and Jeff Reed.

Since 2007, you’ve played for eight professional football teams. How difficult has that been for you and do you think fans see that side of a player’s struggle to make the NFL and the pressure they face to do so?

What a player goes through trying to catch on to an NFL team cannot be shown on any HBO show or in any newspaper.  You are out there on your own just hoping that someone will like you enough to keep you around and give you a chance.  Sometimes it has no bearing on who the best player is making a team and it just depends on politics, like in any business.  That is hard for a 23 year old man to swallow at that age.

The public thinks that guys who are in the NFL are all millionaires and can retire and live happily ever after when it’s all said and done when in all actuality the average player is in the league for 3.1 years, I just so happened to get four in.  Sometimes that’s the worst part of it.  Being cut is hard enough if you’re not good enough of a player, but when you are cut just because the team can only keep so many numbers then it really hurts.  But like I said all you can do is give it everything you have and hope for the best.

Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against,, and what made them so. Any examples?

I had the opportunity to go against some of the all-time greats with the Steelers and it made it very difficult to make a team because these were some very difficult opponents.  For example, James Harrison is someone who I had to line up against every single day and he was an absolute beast.  Aaron Smith was also someone who was very difficult to manhandle.  I had one series against Julius Peppers in a preseason game and he kind of made me look silly for three plays out there.  James Hall and Chris Long from the St. Louis Rams were also very tough competitors.

What advice would you give younger players today coming into the NFL with the same sort of skillsets you came into the league with? And why?

If I had to give to advice to anyone trying to come out of a small school and make it big time in the NFL it would be to make sure that you are always ready to show what you got.  Sometimes you might only get one chance to show that you belong on a team and you will never know when that is going to be.  If you do not perform how you are expected to perform at that one opportunity you might never get another chance again.  And also do not dwell on what happens if you make a mistake or get beat in a competition.  Analyze it, correct it, and move on to the next snap because if you don’t it might be your last.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I’d like thank you for the opportunity to comment on these questions and I’d also like to thank the Steelers organization for giving an unknown from a small town the chance to live out his childhood dreams.  It is something that not many people can say they did in their lives.  I am very blessed from everything that the NFL has given me and taught me in my life.

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