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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.
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.
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.
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.
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career – how you get started and why?
My second year in Pittsburgh I started thinking about my future after my NFL career, you always hear veterans players say, “football doesn’t last forever so take advantage of it while you can”. I took note to their advice and started buying real estate. My second year is when I bought my first rental property in California . I didn’t own a house because I would spend very little time there. So one lead to two then three so I ended up with 8 properties between California and Arizona ranging from single family homes duplexes and four-plex units.
I also received my Certification as an Emergency Medical Technician two years ago while volunteering for the Glendale and Phoenix fire departments in Arizona. Currently, I volunteer as a coach at a local junior college and high school in Los Angeles.
What lessons from your time in the NFL helped you in this role- and did the NFL provide any post-NFL career services to help you adjust?
My lesson learned from my time in the NFL was to “never taking anything for granted, and take advantage of every opportunity as it were your last”. The NFL offers several post NFL career services, which I have yet to take advantage of at the moment.
You transferred to Iowa State as a Junior from community college and were moved from defensive to offensive tackle. How did you feel about that transition so late in your college career and how did that impact you development?
My senior year at Iowa State I switched from the Defensive Line to the Offensive Line. I was against the transition to the position of an offensive lineman. What was important to me at that time was stats, making tackles and obtaining sacks. This is what I was accustomed to in high school and junior college. After further consideration, either I wasn’t at the top of my skill or we really needed help on the offensive side of the ball. At that time, I didn’t realize the coaches saw potential in my ability to make the transition.
I used my first year at Iowa to red shirt. This allowed me ample time to put on weight, learn offensive line techniques and build strength. Do to myself being a great athlete; I was able to get away with technique flaws because I could make it up with quick recovery if I got into trouble.
In ’98, you were drafted by Dallas in the fifth round as a left tackle despite just one year as an offensive tackle in college. How did that affect your development and how did Dallas work with you?
After being drafted in 1998, with just one year of experience in the Offensive line position, it was in the best interest of the team not to throw me into the game my first year due to my lack of experience. There wasn’t a lot of pressure or need for me to play that year in Dallas. I was second string to an offensive line that was composed of all elite players which included Larry Allen, Eric Williams, Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski. I was able to take my time and learn the game and develop myself with hopes of achieving the success.
After a year in Dallas then Philadelphia, you were signed by the Steelers in 2000 in free agency. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh and hat did they tell you about your role with the team?
When I decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000, there were three teams that I was in negotiating with. Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Kanas City. After analyzing the roster, observing which players I would back-up as well as compete with and where would I have the best chance to play, my decision was Pittsburgh. If I recall correctly there wasn’t any discussion on my role as I joined the team late in the season.
Who on the Steelers team helped you adjust to the new team/culture the most, and how so?
When I arrived in Pittsburgh, Dermontti Dawson helped me get accustomed to the team culture. He assisted me with traveling around the city, provided me with short versions to learn the play-book and went the extra mile and invited me to spend dinner and holiday’s at his house with him and his family.
You developed and became a starter in Pittsburgh then signed a restricted free agent offer with Cleveland in 2002. What made you decide to sign that offer and how did you feel when the Steelers matched it?
In 2002, the Steelers had a few players that were injured, i.e.; Marvel Smith, Wayne Gandy and Kendall Simmons. As I wasn’t a full time starter, I started more than half the season while playing 3-4 different positions (Right Tackle, Left Tackle, Right Guard and Left Guard). I signed my offer with Cleveland since I was offered the opportunity become a full time starter at right tackle. This is the goal of any player in the NFL. I was elated when Pittsburgh matched my offer as I was already settled in Pittsburgh and Russ Grimm, my offensive line coach helped me elevate my game to the next level. The Steeler’s organization is second to none.
You read a lot about the loss of leadership 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?
During my years in Pittsburgh we had a several leaders such as Dermontti Dawson, Alan Faneca, Jerome Bettis and Jeff Hartings. They were leaders by example with an attitude that was reserved and modest.
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?
Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter and Hines Ward were the big personalities of the group. We were all so competitive! There was always some kind of bet before practice, that the defensive line would stop the offense during 3dr down period and the offense would win goal-line drill. The offense would win more seven on seven plays.
You left the team after the 2004 season and signed with Arizona. What made you decide to do so and how difficult was that for you?
Well to be honest it was more of a business decision as I would have preferred to stay with the Steelers as they won the Super Bowl that year, meanwhile, Arizona Cardinals presented me with an offer. The challenge of leaving a winning organization to an organization that was struggling was more difficult to transition into.
You played for six teams over your eleven-season career. How difficult was that for you and do you think fans understand the toll that takes on players?
My career was definitely a well-traveled one! I had to earn and prove myself as nothing was given to me. My work ethic was countless, focus was determined and dedication was foremost while learning the offensive line position. Relocation of different teams defiantly takes a toll on you as you must adapt to the new city, teammates, different playing styles, and different offences. You are constantly adapting to a different way of life.
What are your favorite memories as a Steeler?
My favorite memory as a Steeler was when I was named Opening Day as a starter. It fell like all the hard work and dedication, long traveled and advice from the veteran players paid off.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would like to thank the Readers and Steeler Fans for letting me share my NFL career story with them and for sharing the winning tradition with me in the city of Pittsburgh. An experience that will never be forgotten!
First, can you let readers know about your new business venture. How you got started with this and why you chose this venture?
Right now I’m the Director of Marketing Development for a company that sells premier brand appliances – stoves, refrigerators, freezers – premier high end appliances. We also sell lower end stuff too. We have four stores in California and just opened one up in Chicago. We sell other items too – all plumbing supplies and more. We do it in a really unique way – all in one live showroom. It’s a totally new concept – we have four chefs and five baristas – it’s an experience – like Lexus does. You need to see it to really understand and appreciate it. We’re opening up stores in Dallas, Atlanta, New Jersey… and a bunch of other places after that.
My job is to meet with the architects, designers and builders – to develop relationships with the bigger influencers. The executive team here is great – the want people to love their lives. And I have always loved the selling experience.
How hard was it to find a post-NFL career and what about your time in the NFL helped and hurt your ability to find your next career?
I did a lot of different things coming out of football – all geared towards selling. I sold fitness equipment – acted as a broker for equipment from places that went out of business. I also did technical recruiting for eight years for the manufacturing industry. Then I worked for various entrepreneurs after that – trying to find that feeling you get right before kickoff. It’s had to find that – and I think we’re all trying to look for that when we leave the game. At least just a little dose of that, and I think I found that here. With this company and it’s $16 million dollar showroom – it really is just stunning.
You came to the Steelers in ’89 after five years playing for Atlanta, Buffalo and Los Angeles. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh – and what was your role with the team?
I was released by Buffalo in training camp. My area was special teams. I was waiting to get picked up. I always received accolades as a special teams guy – I kicked as at special teams. I had my success there. The Steelers had need for a fullback – I think Carter went down with an injury. So really, at that point, you go to where whoever wants you. You wait for an injury and that open roster spot. It was a blessing being in Pittsburgh. It was a fun year for me. That’s how it goes – you don’t choose – they find you.
What were the biggest differences you found between Pittsburgh and the other teams you played for?
If they don’t know you, you really have to re-assert yourself. I had my own rep factor – I was a two-time Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. But they didn’t know me. It was a tight team. Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley and Dermontti Dawson were great guys. And it was interesting to me how Chuck Noll delegated things. he as a great coach.
It wasn’t hugely different from other teams. I remember in Buffalo Marv Levy had us study the rulebook every week and we’d have meetings on it. Really – another meeting?! Chuck – he as just a well-oiled machine.
Bubby Brister and Merrill were hilarious. All the women loved Merrill but he was such a gentleman. Him – hanging with Bubby… Bubby was just so outgoing – those two together were just a funny combination. Bubby was just so much more crazy – I went out with those two sometimes.
And of course we had special owners. I knew the history there – it was just a class operation. I still get letters from the team they send to all of their alumni. It’s great that they do that – not all the teams do.
How competitive were all of the running backs and what veterans helped mentor you as a new player on the team? Both on and off the field – how did they help you adjust?
We all helped each other. You could see how talented the other running backs were. It was obvious who would play – who was better. Merrill was built for that spot. I knew I could kick major ass on special teams. I knew my role. You know that what he coaches decide is accurate. And my opinion didn’t matter anyway. I focused on my job. I knew my playing time was on special teams and that’s where I shined.
I remember once I got into a fight in practice. Delton Hall hit me when I was way out of bounds. It cut my lip…I went crazy on him until the other guys broke us up. I was just on the scout team! Later in practice they ran a sweep to the right and a wide receiver was blocking Hall and I ran right at him and knocked him over. I threw the ball at him and went at him again – I’m glad someone broke us up again. That’s the unique thing about it. At the end of the practice you both ask each other if you’re ok and you go back to the locker room. I didn’t really want to slug it out with those guys – I already was knocked out enough times as a 250 pound fullback flying around the field.
What veterans helped mentor you as a new player on the team? Both on and off the field – how did they help you adjust?
Dick Hoak was a great student of the game. His expectations were high for you to know what you were supposed to do so we all knew what we were doing. He’d get fired up if you did something wrong.
It was a good group. We’d go out after games…and the and were just nuts. That was different from other places. Nuts in a good way. Intense. I went to the Super Bowl in Detroit and guys were dressed up in full gear. To watch the game! That was unbelievable.
Carnell Lake was a good guy that helped me. Merrill did. I remember Rod Woodson gave us all on special teams $100 when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He was unbelievable how fast and strong he was. Dwight Stone too = he was like a heat-seeking missile – he as a stud. A great athlete – I remember them trying to find something – a role for him there.
What part did humor play on the team in terms of keeping players loose? Were you part of the locker room hijinks and humor? What were some of the funnier moments you remember and who were some of the funniest players on the team?
The funniest thing I remember was Merrill and the ice tub. He was sitting in the tub and I bet him $50 he couldn’t stay in the tub of ice up to his neck for a minute. He told me I was on – so we starting throwing ice in the tub. He was up to his waist like it normally would be to ice your legs. But if it gets up past your heart for that long it’s like suicide. Well he calls over three ball boys to cheer him on. He goes up to his waist and he just has this calm expression as he kept telling the ball boys to keep cheering. Well, he lasted the minute – he ended up doing it. He came out looking like a tomato. I gave him his $50 and told him that was the greatest $50 ever. It was crazy – he could have had a heart attack!
I also remember Bubby. He was just nasty. Always had a big chew and spitting in a cup. One day he came to the tub totally naked. He stands where all the powders and lotions were and, balls hanging out as he was talking to the guys in the tub, just takes a whole thing of powder and puts it on all over his chest and starts patting himself with it into this big cloud of smoke. “That’s just about do it,” he said, then just walked away. That was Bubby….He should have been a defensive lineman – he had that kind of mentality.
You left the team and NFL after the’89 season. What brought that on and how difficult was that for you?
I came back in ’90 but was the last player cut in practice. I had a great camp but they went in a different direction that year. I had some great hits on special teams and it was a close call. But the body can only take so much. The next year my knee locked up and I needed knee surgery again. I said that was it….
Training camp then was insane, remember. Guys were just laying into each other before games It was too much – it beat us up too much. The Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t allow for that anymore and that’s the way it should be. It ended too many careers was to early. It’s a great gig – outside of the pain. You don’t leave the game – it retires you.
What are your favorite memories playing in Pittsburgh?
The whole experience was a dream come true. I met some great friends – guys like AC/DC that I met when I was with the Rams and the guys fro the Spin Doctors… I met and did so many amazing things. I was very outgoing and made things happen that way. I’m a big rocker and loved meeting those guys. I’m thankful for the people who gave me those opportunities. I’d encourage everyone to use those experiences as leverage to open up doors – and not to harp on all the negative parts of the job and life!
First, can you let readers know about your career at Brownstone -how you got started in this post-NFL venture?
I started in the real estate business full time in 1993 after my football career ended. I went to work for my father in law as a sales person for Brownstone Real Estate Company in Hershey, PA and became his partner in the development business. While we developed several residential communities I worked as a sales person for 14 years. In 2007 my brother in law and I took over full control of Brownstone after my father in law’s retirement. We still run Brownstone today where we enjoy a number one position for market share in our area. We also have three large developments in various stages of completion at this time.
What NFL experiences and lessons do you find have helped you in this career and why?
First of all, my severance pay from the NFL helped me in becoming a partner in the development business. I guess that is what it is for. Also, my time playing NFL and college football as a quarterback gave me invaluable experience in terms of leadership, stress management, preparation, work ethic, getting along with teammates, etc. Being a leader of a company is not much different than being a leader of a football team.
You were drafted by the Steelers in the 7th round in ’84. Certainly no guarantee to make the team, what about you and your play caught the coaches’ eyes and helped you secure a roster spot, do you think?
Well the biggest thing that happened that opened up the door for me to make the 1984 team my rookie year was that Terry Bradshaw retired shortly after the draft. This took the Steelers down to three quarterbacks on the roster instead of four. I think that was pretty significant to understate things a bit. Apart from that I had to fight like crazy each of my seven NFL years to make the roster in Pittsburgh and Atlanta. I always had to overcome questions about my size (6 foot).
I carried a bit of a chip on my shoulder because of that and I think that helped me mentally. I think the coaches could see I was confident and I could pick up the offense rather quickly. I credit this to the fact that I was raised by a coach who taught me football since I was very young and because I played in an open, pro-style offense at Purdue.
How competitive was the quarterback position then with Malone, Brister and Woodley there along with you a vying for playing time? Were they helpful in your development as a rookie?
Brister came during my third year in Pittsburgh after an offseason where I had back surgery. I did not play with him very long, but spent two seasons with Malone and Woodley. I like them both, but they were very different from each other. Malone set a good example for preparation as a quarterback and what is necessary to get yourself ready to play. Woodley impressed me with his relaxed and confident manner. I think I could take things from both of them. I think it was more competitive between those two as veterans than it was with me.
What veterans helped mentor you as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Although as a rookie I was scared to death of Jack Lambert, all of the veterans in Pittsburgh were helpful, really good guys. They were always respectful of me, even as a rookie and made me feel at home.
There were several guys from the Super Bowl era of the 70s still on the roster that I really looked up to. Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster are the players that stick out to me. I learned what is was to be a pro by watching them. In rookie mini-camp at Three Rivers Stadium we were watching this guy running steps on the upper deck of the stadium commenting how hard he was working. One of the coaches came up to us and told us that was Mike Webster. That made an impression on me because of how hard he was working in the off season.
Tony Dungy was our defensive coordinator and while he was not my position coach I admired him immensely. The way he treated players and his calmness stood out to me.
Being a somewhat local guy (born in Hershey), how did that affect you as a player, and how did you as a player “on the bubble” deal with the pressure of making the team?
Being from Pennsylvania didn’t really affect me other than making me really proud of being part of the Steelers organization and part of the city of Pittsburgh. The interesting thing about “being on the bubble” was that my first couple of years in the NFL I was too young, stupid, and naïve to know I was even on the bubble, which of course I was. The older I got the more I realized how hard it is to make an NFL team and the more pressure I felt.
You have to block out the negative and you need a little luck along the way for things to fall in place for you. Sometimes, a decision is made ahead of time and there is nothing you can do about it. My last preseason game for Atlanta I was 7-10 with a touchdown and played well. I also got cut a few days later. In Pittsburgh I just won a fan vote in the paper for the starting quarterback job. I got cut the next week. Such is life n the NFL.
After a strong ’84 season, the team struggled the following two seasons. How did Coach Noll and the players deal with those struggles both on and off the field?
Making the playoffs and getting to the AFC Championship game in 1984 was very exciting for me as a rookie. I didn’t play much at all (five appearances), but did contribute to a touchdown drive against Cleveland late in the season when I had to come in the game because of injury. I played one series, completed some passes and we scored a touchdown. Malone came back in after that, but I was proud to contribute in a tight, divisional game against our rival in the heat of a playoff run.
We fell short in 1985 and did not make the playoffs, which is never a good thing in Pittsburgh. I also hurt my knee in the last regular season game and underwent back surgery in the offseason. Players and coaches were not happy with our results that year.
After three years in Pittsburgh you ended up on Atlanta in 1986. Was the move frustrating or a positive one for you and what were the major diff wended you found between the two franchises?
I was released after the 3rd game of the 1986 season by the Steelers and it was a surprise to me. It really caught me off guard. Fortunately, Atlanta picked me up with five games to go in the season and I played for the Falcons through the 1990 season. I was the starting quarterback for the Falcons for the majority of the 1987 season. While I enjoyed my time in Atlanta and was very thankful for a job in the NFL it did not compare to being a Steeler. The special feeling you get being part of the Steeler football family was hard to beat. There is no football city in the USA like Pittsburgh, either. I really missed it.
What part did humor play on those Noll teams in terms of keeping players loose? What were some of the funnier moments you remember and who were some of the funniest players on the team? Any examples?
One of the funniest things I can remember about my time in Pittsburgh was at my expense. We were playing a preseason game in Minnesota and I threw a swing pass that was tipped and then intercepted by a very tall defensive end at about mid-field. He had a head start, but I caught him at about the five-ten yard line. Instead of going for his legs I dove and tried to jump on his back. He proceeded to stiff arm my chest and I totally whiffed on the tackle to the fans delight. As I was walking of the field they were replaying the play on the Jumbotron and the fans were laughing like crazy. As I got to the sideline I saw Chuck Noll watching the replay and laughing his head off as well.
The other funny moment for me was against the Redskins at home my second year in the league in 1985. Woodley was starting at the time because Malone got hurt the week before and was not dressed for the game. They gave Woodley 100% of the practice plays that week (I got none) to get him ready to play. When we went out for warm-ups I noticed that Woodley wasn’t out there and I was the only quarterback on the field. He was in the locker room sick as a dog. Chuck Noll comes up to me and very matter-of-factly states, “I guess you’re starting”. This was my first NFL start. I hadn’t practiced one offensive play all week. Such is life in the NFL.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers was a dream come true for me and is still something in which I am very proud. I will always remember my time in Pittsburgh fondly.