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Darnell Stapleton, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 2007-2009

October 20, 2011

Darnell Stapleton:

You’ve been doing a lot of coaching – can you tell readers about your recent coaching jobs and why you decided to get into coaching?

Well ever since I started playing football I knew I wanted and had the drive to play professionally as well as some day coach professionally. So last year when I retired due to injuries I started my search for my first job coaching, the first opportunity that I came across that spring was a chance to be the head coach of a professional women’s football team called the New York Shark’s which has been and continues to be a great experience for me.

During the season with Sharks two of my assistant coaches asked if I would be interested in coaching the O and D line at Montclair Kimberly Academy, the high school were they coach at in the fall! So for that last couple months I have been teaching them the little that I know hahaha. So between running my website designing company and coaching I stay very busy!

What coaching lessons did you learn from the Steelers that you were able to apply to your own coaching jobs – and who taught them to you?

I learned a lot from the Steelers organization and coaching staff, mainly what it took to win week to week, which was consistency! To get players to play above there talent level on a consistent basis! I also learned that a coaching staff is team with-in the team, seeing coach T, and the rest of the staff compile there knowledge together week after week to put us players in the best position to win!

You came into the league undrafted. How did you prove yourself to the team as a rookie – how did you separate yourself from the other linemen looking for a roster spot?

It was tough making it as an undrafted free agent, but I came in with the mentality to just work as hard as I possible can so it would be hard for coaches and front office to let me go!

Who mentored you as a rookie – and how did they do so?

Have to be honest all of the Vets on the O-line helped in my mentoring as player, its kind of like the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. It takes an entire room of vets to groom a rookie offensive lineman. But I was really close with guys like Colon, Essex, Kemoeatu, Starks, Foster, Legurski guys I still talk to on a regular basis!

Who were some of the most difficult players you lined up against in practice and what made them so?

I Don’t know where to start haha, I mean Hampton, Woodley, Harrison, Aaron Smith, Keisel, Timmons, Troy, Farrior, those are a group of guys that have bunch of pro-bowls under there belts and a bunch of them will be hall of famers when its all said and done. I practice they always brought it so I had to be on my A game just to have a chance, but going against some of the best in the game made me good player!

You started in Super Bowl XLIII – how difficult was it remaining calm and settled amidst all the pressure and how did the team keep an even keel throughout the Super Bowl build-up and game?

Remaining calm through the pressure and build-up to Super Bowl XLIII wasn’t hard because we had a lot of been there done that type of vets on the team who knew what it was like to be in the big dance, and they did a great job of letting young guys like myself know what to expect and how to handle everything!

What was Tomlin’s involvement in the strategy of the game and working with the other coaches? Was he hands off and more of an inspirational leader or did he get his hands dirty on the strategic elements of the team?

Coach Tomlin was very much involved in the game plan week to week, like I said earlier I feel like our coaching staff was a team amongst the team they did a great job preparing and motivating us each week

You blocked for a number of top running backs in college and the NFL. Who were the best and what made them so?

Haha not going to put them in any order but I had the chance to block for Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Brian Lenard. All great backs, but I think Mendenhall and Rice separate themselves from the group they both are explosive backs who cant be taken down by one defender, they also both do a great job of catching the ball out of the backfield and making people miss.

What do you think of the “new” NFL – the increased focus on player safety and the passing game?

Well I am a fan of the ‘new’ NFL when it comes to the safety aspects, cause I think in the past safety wasn’t the most important thing but it should be. Now me being a former offensive lineman this pass happy league isn’t my cup of tea, most or all linemen will agree with me when I say its different when you able to run the ball on a team rather than pass, it takes a little bit of the defensive manhood when you can run the ball down there throat.

How do you think offensive lines should look in this new pass-oriented NFL – what should teams be doing with the offensive line so they are better suited for this style of play?

If the pass happiness continues, offensive lineman may be forced to lose a couple pounds, to make them a little lighter on their feet, to prepare for pass blocking for most of the game.

Any last thoughts for readers?

Once a Steeler, always a Steeler, I bleed black and gold! I miss the city of Pittsburgh and the fans!

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