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Tommy Wade, Steelers Quarterback, 1964-1965

November 17, 2011
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Tommy Wade:

First, Can you let readers know about your work as Principal of the Bullard Intermediate School District? What brought you to this role and what are your greatest challenges?

I began my Education career at age 52 after another career in insurance. I work as the Principal of 5th and 6th graders. I have always enjoyed young people (coached for six years ) . I work very hard at trying to be a role model for my kids. They are faced with many challenges that my generation did not have to cope with.

You came into the NFL in 1964 – who helped mentor you as a rookie with those Pittsburgh teams and how did they do so?

Charlie Bradshaw-Great guy and a Texan-Bobby Layne-trying to show me what being competitive is all about. Andy Russell–Great team example, hard worker.
 
Were you were a two-way player as most players were? If so, which positions did you play in college and did you expect to end up as a quarterback in the NFL?

I was a one way player- not very good defensively-I played some safety in College.

Mike Nixon was the coach of the 1965 team – how was he to play for? What was his relationship with you and other players?

He was a players coach-I felt like he wanted the best for me and gave me opportunities! Most of our team seemed to like him.
 
How did the team take Coach Nixon’s departure in 1966 – and how did it adjust to new coach Bill Austin?

We were not surprised. I was released during the following pre-season so that was my only exposure to Coach Austin
  
The team struggled during the 60’s. What were the reasons for those struggles and how did the team try to handle those issues?

The lack of committment to excellence–That began to change in the later 60’s The signing of Terry Bradshaw was the beginning of that change. I really thought a lot of the Rooney’s.
 
In speaking to a number of your peers, they spoke of the “crude” conditions you had to play in – practicing in stables on poor weather days, locker rooms in houses near the stadium….how did those conditions affect the team’s attitude towards the team and game?

I agree about conditions and equipment-I came from UT where everying was first class so I remember being surprised. I definitely think it affected the team’s attitude about being successful.
 
Who were the characters and leaders on those teams and how did they do so? Any examples?

Bobby Layne was quite a character! wow!

Something I will never forget is riding all night over New England during training camp in a car with Bobby Layne and a driver singing songs to him. We got back just in time for morning practice.  I was totally wiped out-He never missed a beat! What a night!
 
Do you follow the NFL today? What do you think of today’s pass-friendly league? How much would you have liked to play today?

I am more of a college fan today. The NFL has amazing talent –We had to call our own plays as Bradshaw did-I think quarterbacks are more talented in general and more able to react today without that  responsibility.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I have always been greatful to Pitttsburgh and the people of Pittsburgh for the opportunity to be a part of the NFL and that orgnization

From Jim O’Brien: 

In 1964, Tommy was a member of the Steelers’ practice squad of “taxi squad,” so called because when Paul Brown was the coach of the Cleveland Brown he had a bunch of spares (remember the active roster was 33 players) to make practice better and he got them jobs driving taxis in Cleveland so they could make some money. 

 I was doing public relations for the Pittsburgh Valley Ironmen, a minor league team, in my senior year (1963) at Pitt and for one year thereafter (1964) before going to the Army for two years.  I did not think we had a good enough team for me to publicize so I went to Art Rooney Sr. and arranged a deal whereby Wade, Dave “Rooster” Fleming, a sandlot star as a running back from Hazelwood who did not go to college, and Mel Profit, a tight end from UCLA.  The deal was that those three played in games for the Ironmen after practicing all week with the Steelers and one night each week with the Ironmen.  We matched their salaries with the Steelers.  I think we paid Wade $400 a week, Profit $300 a week and fleming $200 a week. 

They were three of our top players.  Wade went on to set a record for the Steelers that still stands.  He had seven passes intercepted in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 12,1965.  Bradshaw had give passes picked off in two different games, and Mark Malone did it once. 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. John Bogovich permalink
    April 24, 2013 2:29 pm

    I played with Wade during that season. I
    graduated from,what at that time was
    California State Teachers College. I played
    tight end. Ken kulak was our Qb .
    I also remember that I played ahead of
    Profit and was payed only $65 a game plus
    traveling expenses. Do some extra research
    and let me know what you come up with.

    Thanks. John Bogovich AA. Cal State
    Tight end. 1962. Williamson
    National Rating System. Houston,
    Texas.

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