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Hubie Bryant, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1970-1971

November 3, 2011
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Hubie Bryant:

First, what are you doing with yourself these days?

I was in Pittsburgh for ten years taking care of my ailing mother before she passed. I was a high school coach at Westinghouse, Shaler and Woodland Hills after that and then got to coach for Penn Hills where I graduated which was exciting for me. I coached at Norfolk State from 1994-1988 before going back to help my mother.

 I was depressed after she passed away in 1991. Now, I’m starting up a new program at Virginia University in Lynchburg – I’ll be the Athletic Director and Coach – it will be the first football team they’ve had there in sixty years.

What made you decide to take up coaching?

The love of the game.  You realize y0u can’t play forever.

I always loved athletics. I was a track guy who played football – my first love was track. But back in the early 60’s, track was just an amateur sport, not a profession. All you had was the Olympics then.

 So, how did you come to play football?

I was challenged. I was a speed guy. I was the smallest guy – or one of the few smallest – when I was in the NFL. I weighed 160 or so. I was told a little man couldn’t play and had a chip on my shoulder because of it.

I wasn’t drafted. I came in to the league through the back door and fought for everything.

I was playing in the Continental Football league when my head coach got a job at BLESTO scouting – the scouting service the Steelers used. . He got me a tryout with the Steelers. I was just about to sign a contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League  too. It was a dream to play for my home team in front of my family.

How was it getting there and getting ready to play for your home team?

I jumped at it. I got my report to camp letter and saw Tony Parisi for my equipment. He told me the rookies are in the back of the locker room so I went and looked but didn’t see my name. I couldn’t find it.

I went back and he asked if I was supposed to be there – he looked at my report to camp letter again and told me to go to lunch and he’ll take are of it.

When I come back I look for my locker and it’s still not there. Then I see it (laughing). He put a chair by the door and tape above it with my name on it. Above the chair was a nail with my helmet hanging on it. On the chair were my pads.

I said to myself, they don’t think I’ll make it. I told myself they may not know my name now but they’ll know my name before I leave. And I prayed for the strength to make the team!

Well, how did you prove yourself to the coaching staff?

I had the best position coach ever in Lionel Taylor. He knew I had the speed to play the game. You cannot coach size and speed. Well, I had the speed and he was an excellent teacher of technique. I had the ability to play in the Big Ten and he helped me prove myself to the NFL.

I was a physical player. I could block  – I broke ribs and jaws – I was a vicious blocker. I always had something to prove. I could make the crack block and play as a punt returner. I was just determined to prove myself as a player.

How was Coach Noll to play for?

Chuck wasn’t a very warm person. He was disciplined though and fair. He wasn’t a guy you could get to know – he was a solid individual you could trust. If you performed, you played.

You were on the team for two seasons then traded. What happened?

I didn’t adjust to the turf at Three Rivers. I was a track guy and never pulled a hamstring until Three Rivers – the turf was crude – no cushion. I pulled my hamstring after seven or eight games and it really ended my career there. I was traded to New England and beat out their number one pick, but then got hurt  in New England at the end of the Baltimore Colts game at Foxboro Stadium. 

The offensive had been sitting on the sideline for a long time when the Colts scored with less than a minute left in the game. I wasn’t really warm and I had to go in and return the kickoff. I got the kick and hit the hole to the left and just as I was about to break it for 6, Rick Volt grabbed my ankle; I tried to kick my leg free and popped my hamstring. I hobbled as fast as I could to the sideline where I was met by about five dudes-“Boom”.

On Monday as I’m sitting in the whirlpool, Head Coach Myzer asked me if I was alright because if so he was going to start me that Sunday…I had beat out the #1 draft pick Jon Sekllers from Florida State, but I couldn’t play! That is how my NFL experience ended.

I played for the World Football League for a year after that, but then moved on from football.

What are your best memories of the Steelers?

I made Steelers history actually. In the first game at Three Rivers – the dedication game, I got the game ball. It was an exhibition game and I had a couple good returns and catches.

I also blame my crooked finger on Terry Bradshaw. It was against Cincinnati – he got flushed out of the pocket and  came back to help block thinking he was going to run. But at the last second he threw the ball as hard as he could from five yards away and it bent my finger backwards. I ran right off the field and the trainer popped it back but it needs surgery. It’s ugly looking now!

What players were the leaders and characters of those teams?

Hanratty and I were home boys from Western Pennsylvania.

There was no bigger character than Frenchy. It was a good time for Black culture and fashion – it was the “mod” culture – ut was good to be “fly”. It became the Fashion Express in the locker room. Good thing about Chuck was, he didn’t care how people dressed. He just wanted you to show up and play.

So, so can you straighten this out – Chuck Beatty and Frenchy Fuqua – who started the dress-off?

There’s a dispute between Chuck and Frenchy on who started it. I don’t know, but it was fun.They would try to outdo each other. L.C. would paint his shoes….Lots of guys got their outfits downtown…it was a fun time.

 How did the team handle the fact that many veterans were being let go for the younger players. Was there any animosity there?

It was an older team – many of the veterans were going to retire soon anyway, so there wasn’t any animosity.

I do remember Roy Jefferson blaming me for getting him traded (laughing). We had a bunch of injured wide receivers in camp so I was out there running every turn – was just not many backups healthy enough to go.

Roy went over to Chuck and told him he was going to kill me in practice. The two got into an argument about it, and shortly after Roy was traded. Roy said sticking up for me got him traded!

Lionel Taylor was also big in that. Lionel Taylor saw something in me. He told me to give me something to fight for you with. Even though all of us receivers were fighting for the same job, he created a team feeling for us – when one of us did well we all did. He wouldn’t allow any animosity between us.

He also made sure we weren’t prima donnas. When he saw the backs blocking, he’d being us over and tell us we can block hard too. He made sure we were a great blocking group, and we were.

What do you think of the game today?

I don’t like the game today. If I played today, it wouldn’t even be fair!

Some of my best friends are defensive backs. Blount had a lot to do with me being a good receiver. I faced Mel Blount every day in practice – I got to face the best cornerback in the history of the NFL every day. He could be ten feet away and still touch me, that’s how long his arms were. And he could run like a deer.

I tease him – I say I made him what he is today too (laughing).

I feel bad for the defensive backs today. You can’t touch the receiver. The game has changed and now it’s all about the offense I feel sorry for defensive players like Harrison – it’s like touch football now.

I would have eaten people up for lunch today with these rules. Lots of today’s receivers, they wouldn’t have made it in my day. The defensive backs were too physical – they couldn’t have escaped them.

Not like I did back then….

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    November 6, 2011 5:15 pm

    I remember that guy…he was fast and he was physical. He was a local guy who was a heck of a high school athlete in football, basketball and track @Penn Hills High School!!!

  2. Johanne Reid permalink
    November 7, 2011 12:27 pm

    Wow, Nice information I did not know. Great to know the real deal. Happy to see Hubie getting some air time. He is one of the greats but got to little recongntion for what he did.

  3. Daryl Barkley permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:14 am

    I played a lot of basketball with Hubie, he was one of my favorite people growing up. He also coached a teamball team for a short time i played for him the Pittsburgh Points. My name is Daryl Barkley, I think he seen the toughness in me and always gave me respect. Thanks Hubie

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