Rich Erenberg, Steelers Running Back, 1984-1986
First, can you let readers know what you are doing now professionally – about CC Realty Advisors and how you got started in the business?
CC Realty advisors is a real estate investment and development company specializing in acquiring distressed and semi distressed income producing properties throughout the US. We also do some limited development work and have a construction company as well. I have been working in the real estate business since leaving football back in 1987.
I can attribute getting started in the real estate business to Andy Russell. I went to see him at the end of my rookie year to do some networking. While there he mentioned that he knew several people in the local real estate business that he could introduce me to. One of those guys was Ron Puntil who was the President of the local Grubb & Ellis real estate office. Andy called Ron, made the introduction, and the next thing I knew I was working in the commercial real estate business in the off seasons.
You haved also been deeply involved in a number of local charities – can you tell readers about those and how they too can get involved?
My charity work is limited now to only doing a few events a year. When my High School aged kids go off to college I plan to do some more work.
In your “spare time” you’ve also been doing some volunteer coaching. What specific lessons/mindsets from Coach’s Noll and Hoak have you found yourself falling back on most, and why?
I spent about 3 years as president of the Peters Township Junior Football Association and coached youth football there for about 9 years. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Coach Noll and Coach Hoak was the importance of working on fundamentals (blocking and tackling). I was able to take what I learned from them in terms of technique and apply that to coaching the young football players..
I also learned the value of preparation, organization and game planning which I was also able to apply with the kids as well.
In an interview with Walter Abercrombie (https://pittsburghsportsdailybulletin.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/walterabercrombie/) he said Franco Harris an Chuck Noll helped mentor him as a rookie. When you were drafted by the Steelers in 1984, who mentored you then as a rookie and how did they do so?
Unlike Walter I didn’t have any mentors as a rookie. Franco was gone and my relationship with Coach Noll was more of a “player / coach” business type relationship.
Craig Wolfley and others discussed the need for rookies to prove themselves and the funny “hazing” processes they were put through. What paces did the veterans run you through – and did you get any extra grief being the Ivy League back from Colgate?
One of the problems with the pro football pay scale is that unproven rookies can make more money than the veterans who have been in the league for several years. Because of this the rookies need to work extra hard and produce quickly to earn the respect of the older guys.
During training camp the vet make all the rookies get up and sing a song during the evening meal which is pretty funny and harmless. Most of us including me can’t sing so the older guys get a good laugh at you while they throw stuff at you. If you’re really bad they might just boo you off the chair which is pretty much what happened to me.
Being a Colgate guy I got a little extra grief if I made a mental mistake. When I did, I’d get a comment like, is that what an Ivy league education got you?
The interesting thing about having graduated from a good school is that the coaches and many of the players assume you are smart so the expectations are a little higher in regards to the mental aspect of the game.
What was the biggest adjustment you had in the NFL and how did you make a spot for yourself on a team with backs like Abercrombie and Pollard already on the roster? What did you see your role as being with the team?
The biggest adjustment by far was grasping the speed of the game. I just couldn’t believe how big, fast, strong and athletic the linebackers were. It seemed almost unfair to me that guys at 230 to 250 LBS would run 4.5 to 4.6 40’s. I figured out early on that I wasn’t going to beat out Abercrombie or Pollard for a starting roster spot. They were just bigger faster and quite honestly better football players than I was.
I knew my only chance was to make the team as a situational or special teams player. I had good hands and I ran pretty good pass routes so the coaches began working me into the passing game. I became the 3rd down specialist and returned kickoffs. I was just glad to have a job.
Who was the toughest guy you lined up against in practice – what made them so?
Mike Merriweather was toughest guy to go against in practice because his motor was always running. He played every play in practice like it was a game and took no plays off. He practiced hard and played hard and it showed up on the field as he was one of our best linebackers at the time. When you went against Mike it was full speed all of the time.
Who were the locker room leaders of those mid-to-late 80’s teams? How did they do so and how did they keep the team loose?
I would have to say Mark Malone and Jack Lambert were the two leaders of the teams of the 80’s. They were both hard working guys that lead mostly by example rather than what they said. Although Lambert was certainly the more vocal of the two.
If Lambert said something to the team or an individual player you listened because Jack was tough and didn’tmess around He knew what it took to win and wanted to make sure the rest of us knew it to.
Mark Malone, Steve Bono and Bubby Brister were all there when you arrived. How were the three QB’s viewed by the team and coaches and how did that competition between them affect the team?
From a players point of view we all want to win – our jobs really depended on that so we want the best player to start at every position, especially quarterback. I didn’t care and the rest of the team probably didn’t care who played QB as long as he was the best player.
Malone approached the game as a true professional, he was the hard working cerebral QB that really understood the game. Bubby on the other hand was just a young brash, athletic fun loving guy with a great arm, no fear, just wanted to get out there play. Bono was somewhere in the middle but much closer to Malone in his talents and approach to the game.
Personally I liked all three although I was much closer to Bubby as we developed a great friendship over the years.
Do you follow the team today? What are your thoughts on the way the NFL/game has changed?
I do follow the team today and make it a point to watch most all of the games. I’ve had season tickets since the day I retired and have been taking my two sons to the games for years. I might add that both of my kids are die hard Steeler fans and rarely miss a game.
When I played the game was more of a running game with much simpler schemes. Today the game is a wide open passing game that attimes is so complex its really amazing to watch . Spread and West Coast offenses, no huddle, call the plays at the LOS, defenses giving 5 different looks before the snap count, the QB checking and rechecking at the LOS none of that existed in the 80’s. Personally I think it’s a lot more fun to watch now. The vertical passing game is very exciting to watch as are the defenses designed to stop them.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Yes. I’d like to tell the readers to “Never give up on their dreams” A guy like me who was too small too slow to make itin the pro’s is proof that through hard work, sacrifice and determination we can all achieve something that we never thoughtwas possible.
Remember “that hard work makes dreams come true”. Take Care