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Chuck Beatty, Steelers Safety, 1969-1972

October 30, 2011

Chuck Beatty:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days?

Living out my motto, “Give something back,” in my hometown of Waxahachie, Texas, serving on the City Council, working as a Realtor with Century 21 Judge Fite.  I was elected to the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame, to the University of North Texas Hall of Fame, and to the Prairie View UIL Coaches Hall of Fame.

I am a widower with two grown children, daughter Lauren, who is married to Odarron Lacey; they have an 18-month old daughter, Emory,  (Call me Pops!)

From Boy Scout Senior Patrol Leader, and Team Representative, Missouri Valley Conference, not to mention running for Player Representative for the Steelers, I think politics was a natural. First elected in 1995, I am the longest-serving member of the Waxahachie City Council, including serving as Mayor from 1997 through 2002. I also serve on a variety of state and local boards and
commissions as requested.

You were an Executive at the Boy Scouts of America and were appointed and served as Mayor of your home town of Waxahachie Texas – what made you decide to get involved in the Boy Scouts and politics?    

After football I returned to the University of Texas to complete my degree, and then I went to work for the Boy Scouts of America, where I served for 30 years until retiring in 2003.

How did you feel being drafted by the Steelers in round 7 in 1969- a team at  that time that was at that time notoriously poor?

Probably very disappointed because I expected to be drafted higher, and after growing up in the Dallas area, I wanted to be a Cowboy. The odds were astronomical that Joe Greene and I would end up on the same team. Ron Shanklin was drafted the next year and then there were three from North Texas State University!

Joe and I were freshmen together at UNT and competed against each other for all the attention. Now, here we went again!!  We had been joined at the hip since our first and last fight on the first day of practice as freshmen! (Playing in the cold was also a shock for me.)

Bill Nunn was brought in in the late 60’s by the Steelers to be one of the first people to to really focus on looking at the talent that existed in the small Southern Black colleges – something that had an immense impact how the Steelers drafted. Did you meet Bill and were you aware of the Steelers novel approach at the time to the draft?

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Nunn, who was truly a legend and pioneer in finding talent at historic Black colleges. He and Loyd Wells were at the forefront of finding and signing talent off the beaten path. Chuck Noll actually visited UNT to see Joe Greene but he also saw me!

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

My mentors were Roy “Sweet Pea” Jefferson and Big Ben McGee. Roy had a swagger and taught me to be confident and fearless, while Ben taught me to be humble! Of course, Joe Green and I fed off each other.

You were with the team in Chuck Noll’s first season as a head coach. How did you see the team adjusting to Coach Noll and how difficult of an adjustment was it for the players?

Chuck approached the game as an intellectual and brought that approach. To the player that was accustomed to losing he rought new expectations to become a student of the game. No one stayed that could not adjust.
When did you start to see the team turn around from sad sac to winner – and what do you think was the biggest thing Coach Noll and the front office did to allow that to happen?

It started to change with an influx of guys from Texas and Louisiana: Joe Greene, Chuck Beatty, Ron Shanklin, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White, Terry Bradshaw, Frank Lewis, Mel Blount, Henry Davis, to name a few; all were winners in college and did not lose gracefully. Bill Nunn and the front office continued to find gems in the later rounds of the draft. You cannot forget the First Round choices like Franco, and the other early round choices that contributed to making the Steelers “Steeler Nation.”

Maybe the biggest thing Chuck and the front office did was to start providing a meal to the players during those long all-day preparations for the next game. Also practicing in Three Rivers instead of on the racetrack, where we had to shovel snow before we practiced.

Who were the players in the early 70’s that were the real characters and  acted as the locker-room leaders – and how did they do so? Any examples?

Of course I was the best-dressed Steeler for four years. NOT FRENCHIE, but me.

I put most of the guys in their first outfit. In every city, people would come to see the clothes we had on. The Steelers were the glamour team. There were a host of characters and alter egos that made up the 70’s Steelers.
What’s are some of your fondest memories of playing for the Steelers?

Some of my fondest memories were, naturally, making the team and starting as a rookie, but also all of the players and fans that make me proud to have been a Pittsburgh Steeler; intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown against Cleveland, intercepting two passes in the opening game against Oakland, being shown on the late night talk shows for my tackling. Lots of fond memories.

You played nearly four years in Pittsburgh before finishing your career in St. Louis. Why did you move on from the Steelers and was that a difficult transition?

The game changed to where the safeties protected the cornerbacks. My game was the prototypical strong safety. I hit like a linebacker but with speed to cover wide receivers. Previously, two free safeties would make the All Pro Team. I had a combination of skills to transform the strong safety position.

My strengths were, with my knowledge of the game, having to call defensive signals. The strong safety is like a knight in a chess game. Able to call defenses and clean up mistakes by the line and linebackers with the speed to cover anyone and take to the house.

The position has changed because of the multiple and spread offenses. Troy plays with the tenacity I displayed. But if I had to do it all over again, I would be more like Ed Reed in Baltimore; he is more of a ball hawk. I would go more for the ball and only make unassisted tackles. You get hurt in pileups. That is how I played with the Florida Blazers of the World Football League. There is a book out now titled “… and a Dollar Short,” written by Mark Speck about the 1974 Florida Blazers that participated in the World Bowl.
Any last thoughts for readers? 

Joe Greene and I maintain a close personal relationship, and live in shouting distance of each other in Texas. I am proud to be a loyal Steeler.

Thanks Ron for taking me down memory lane.

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