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Jeremy Staat, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1998-2000

November 20, 2011
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Jeremy Staat:

First, can you let readers know about what you’ve been doing with yourself and your foundation (http://www.TheJeremyStaatFoundation.com)

I’m trying to give back and serve the community, especially here in Bakersfield. I have a lot of causes close to my heart – veterans issues especially. I’m trying to cause awareness to make our VA system more efficient – make it a better system and more information centers around college campuses.

Veterans have been treated like second-class citizens – especially here in California. We need a lot more efficient systems. It takes an average of 280 days for a claim to be ratified as a veteran. That’s way too long. It’s easier for an illegal alien to get healthcare than a veteran and that’s not right.

Where does the foundation come into play?

The foundation is to inspire and motivate. We go to classrooms, rotary clubs and churches to motivate individuals to do their best.

I went to a school leadership workshop in 2009. They flew some guy in from Nebraska – a former player who had done some wrong things and was telling people about his experiences and how to do right. The school flew him in and paid him $3,800 to speak for one and a half hours then leave.

I said that was crazy. I was looking at Rashaan Shehee – a friend and former player who was in the audience too, and said to myself, there are two guys here that would have done it for free!

So the foundation is for people to donate money so that we can help educate these kids for free.

Tell readers about your first year in Pittsburgh.

The people in Pittsburgh – they are blue-collar men and that’s how I played the game. Unfortunately,my time in the NFL was short-lived. The business and politics took away from the atmosphere of the game for me.

How so?

Well for example. I never understood the new stadium. The Steelers we worth, what, $800 million? But they wanted to raise ticket prices and taxes and put in more luxury boxes.  I thought the reason for the stadium and the teams was for the fans!

Being in the military life is about service – service to others and yourself . The owners and players are servants to the fans and I feel like they didn’t do true service to the fans. I was taken aback by it. shouldn’t we cut fans a break? These are hard-working people – their houses are painted back and gold, they have Steelers tattoos…they were missing the point I felt!

How did that affect you and your relationship with the team?

Well, I left on bad terms. I was a Donohoe draft pick and was caught up in the politics between he and Cowher, Those guys hated each other’s guts. When Donohoe was fired I was done. All of Donohoe’s picks were weeded out after two-three seasons.

Were they satisfied with your on-field play?

It wasn’t a good scheme for me. I was more of  a heads-up, 4-3 defensive lineman, not a 3-4 end. Then they shoved me inside when Aaron Smith was there and they brought in Kimo.

It was unfortunate. I was passionate about the game and worked my butt off every play. It was the first time a team ever turned it’s back on me. I busted my hump and it made no sense for Cowher to turn his back on me because of Donohoe.

How has this all affected you now?

I’ve turned it into a positive thing. For instance I’m holding the across-the-country Wall-to-Wall bike ride on February 19th.

About 250 bicycle riders and 400 motorcyclists so far are riding with me and a friend of mine from Iraq who is a double-amputee. We’ve spoken to 2,500 kids – motivated them and made them aware of the Wall of Valor living memorial -the 1,011 residents of Bakersfield who have fallen in battle for this country since World War I.

The bike ride starts at the Wall of Valor at ends at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Many of the same names are on both walls. We’re trying to break down the generational gap between the Vietnam era and today. The shame our Vietnam veterans went through – the lack of respect – was the foundation for us.

How did that sense of service and pride show itself in your play?

I wanted to represent my family and the University of Arizona with pride. Right out of the gate it was a letdown. I lost maybe six games my whole career and we lost my first game – the Hall of Fame game. I was so angry – was yelling and throwing my helmet. Levon Kirkland came up to me and said, “Hey look – just don’t get so upset – pick up your check on Tuesday”.  I was like, hey, we just lost the game, and your worried about your paycheck?

But it was a preseason game – do you think he was trying to calm you down and offer perspective?

Maybe – but it was like, it was just about the money. I didn’t matter if it was a preseason game to me – a loss is a loss!

I never took supplements and steroids. Those guys that did it for money – injecting steroids – well, they are missing the whole point. Losing is not an option. Even with the bike ride people ask me why I ride so fast to train. It’s just the way I am.

I wish I had a longer career. God has a way of making things happen. Trophies are good for only one thing – collecting dust. I want to make sure I build good relationships. No one will care about how many games, tackles or how much money I made.

Any positive memories of your time with the Steelers?

I have lots of positive things. Steed, Strelczyk, Ward, Townsend…all were awesome. I enjoyed hanging out with them and being on the team.

Steed was one of the coolest guys I ever met. I’d watch him in his last season walk out with bad knees, bad shoulders…dog, I didn’t want to be like that when I got older. I shake hands with some of the older vets and their mangled figers…I was fortunate to get out healthy.

Anyone offer you advice that really helped you the most?

Nolan Harrison sat down with me and told me to chill out. That it wasn’t just a game, it was a business. He said you have to understand it’s a business. That never dawned on me. I just wanted to play.

Nolan helped me with my immaturity – the game was something more than I knew.

Anyone else help you?

Pat Tillman – we had conversations all the time. He helped me learn how to address the situation. He was an underdog with the Cardinals. For me, it was different. I was a second-round pick. He told me to keep my head up until I get my retirement. Once I got it, I immediately retired from the game. He told me to keep working and not do anything crazy. Of course, then he went and joined the Army.

Steed, Harrison, and of course Strelczyk all helped. Strelczyk was a crazy guy and great players. Those are guys I cherish. And Alan Faneca too – he’s a good friend and we still talk a lot.

What are some of your best memories of the team?

The fans. I fell in love with the city of Pittsburgh more than the team. Blue collar individuals…The seasons – even the cold weather,

Just standing on the field. It was one of the crappiest fields at the time – that and Philadelphia’s – but knowing the greats played on that field and I was standing there…that Joe Green was here was awesome.

How did you let off steam?

We’d hang out a one of the places near McKnight Road – there was an Irish Pub we went to also. We’d shoot pool and get away from the whole atmosphere. Eight hours a day of football every day gets old. It was good to get out and not think about it.

I was also a hunter – deer around there were like rats. That helped get things off my mind too.

What  about in the locker room – any kidding around there to lessen the tension?

I didn’t do much kidding around. I remember the niche in the locker room for the defensive backs. They used to call it “The Hood” – Townsend and those guys used to joke around a lot there – the reporters weren’t even allowed there.

Bettis, Fuamatu-Ma’afala and Kordell Stewart also joked around a lot. They had this silly game where you make a circle with your fingers and try to make other guys look at it. They’d play that funny, childish game and would fight over whether the other guys looked at it or not. Jerome would sometimes pretend to fall down and then do the circle thing to get other guys to look at it (laughing).

Any last thoughts for readers?

For the team, keep supporting the fans – they need to be taken care of. For the fans, keep supporting the team – it’s been around forever and it’s a great organization.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Eric fg permalink
    December 30, 2011 9:35 pm

    Nice to read an ‘alternative’ view on the organization and some not often heard gossip.
    Best of luck to you Mr. Staat.
    And, I *love* this section of the PSDB with the interviews of folks from the past. Keep it up!

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