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Walter Abercrombie, Steelers Running Back, 1982-1987

October 12, 2011

Walter Abercrombie (July 1,  2011):
First, can you tell readers about your work at your alma mater Baylor –and how you chose  this direction?
I now serve as the executive director of the “B” Association at Baylor University, the school’s 4000-member letterwinners association.I never imagined myself in my current role, but after I retired from the NFL, I knew I wanted to remain involved in athletics in some capacity, so I went back to school and earned a Masters degree, specializing in athletic administration.

After gaining experience in a few collegiate administration jobs, I ultimately found myself back at my alma mater.  I’ve been in my current position since 2004.   

On the Steelers –when you were first drafted, what were your thoughts on going to the Steelers  so high in ’82?

Going into the draft, I didn’t know for certain that I would be drafted so highly.  My agent told me that I would likely go in the first round according to the NFL rankings for RBs that year.  

But honestly, I didn’t really care.  I was just excited to get the opportunity to play at the next level.    

Was this the team and city you were really excited to play for? Why/why not.   

I don’t care who you are, anytime you’re the 12th pick overall in the NFL draft, it’s a very good day.  

Of course, being from sunny Texas, I wasn’t thrill about playing in the cold weather, but I was hyped about playing for the Rooney family and a dynasty like the Steelers organization.  

How was Chuck Noll to play for –what do you remember about playing for him and the lessons  he taught you?

Some players have said Chuck was tough to play for because he would never allow himself to get close to the players.  Although it’s true that he maintained a certain professional distance from us, he was good to me.  

Chuck was a tremendous leader and teacher of the game.   He taught me how to be “professional” football player.

Who were some of the more memorable guys you played with and for – and what made them so?

When I joined the team in ’82, many of the legends like Bradshaw, Swann, Harris, Webster, and Stallworth were still on the team.  Talk about real pros…those guys were unbelievably talented and they knew how to win.  

The person who had the most immediate positive impact on me was Franco.  He was the consummate team player.

Likewise, what were some of your most memorable moments in the NFL, and why?  

Obviously, my most memorable times were during the years we went the furthest in the playoffs.

Winning is always memorable. The 1984 team was awesome.  We made the playoffs that year and went on to win two critically important games on the road against the Raiders and the Broncos.  Those victories put us into the AFC Championship game vs. the Dolphins.  Man, one win away from what would have been my first and the Steelers 5th Super Bowl.  Well, it would not come to be.  Marino tore us apart in the second half of the game and Miami came away with the W.  

That game will haunt me for the rest of my life.  

How hard was it for you to leave to play for Philadelphia in 1987 – and what prompted that decision?   

It’s simple.  I needed a job…and they offered one to me.  

The Steelers wanted to trade me during training camp of my 7th season, but they couldn’t reach a deal in time before their final cut.  So, I was released.  

In retrospect, I should have retired at that point. I was physically finished as a player and deep down inside, I knew it.  But a week or so later, the Eagles contacted me and offered me a two-year contract. I took the money and finished my football career as an Eagle.  

What was the hardest adjustment for you from college to the NFL game and what frustrated you  most?

There were two major adjustments I faced when I got the NFL.  

First, speed of the game is much faster in pro football than in college.  

Secondly, I discovered that nearly every player in the NFL is exceptionally gifted in some way. In college, there may be only two or three on an entire team with truly exceptional physical abilities.  In pro football, they are all exceptionally gifted.  

They are not all gifted in the same way, but each player possesses physical abilities that sets him apart from 98% of the world’s athletes.  

Do you follow the game today – and the Steelers specifically?  

First of all, I have two sons who are the biggest Steelers fans in Texas.  They would disown me if I ever rooted for another team. So, we follow the Steelers in my home. Period.   

What are your thoughts on the way the NFL/game has changed?

The game has changed a lot since I played.  The amount of money players make today is out of this universe compare to the salaries we were paid.  

Also, with free agency, players move around from team to team much more now.  I used to like seeing guys remain with the same time for their entire careers.  

Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates? If so, who?

Living in Texas has significantly limited my ability to stay in touch with some guys, but I have managed to keep in touch with my former roommate Craig Bingham and a few fellow ’82 draft mates.   

What one piece of advice would you give rookies today?

My advice to rookies today is: 1. Save as much money as possible. 2. Remember professional football is a business, treat it as such.  3. Don’t burn bridges.  4. Finally, your career will be relatively short, so try to enjoy every single minute of the experience. It will be over before you know it.

Any other thoughts for readers?   

To the Steeler Nation:  Thank you for being the greatest fans in the world!


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