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Chidi Iwuoma, Steelers Cornerback, 2002-2006, 2006

December 6, 2011

Chidi Iwuoma:

First, can you let readers about your work with the California athletics department?

First it is amazing to be back at my alma mater where I developed from an eighteen year old kid into a responsible adult. Currently, I am the Assistant Director of Football Student Development. I assist our football student athletes with any academic issues that may arise on campus i.e tutoring, dorms, class conflicts.
Are you looking to get into coaching? if so, is there a particular aspect of coaching that interests you most and that you find yourself imparting on the athletes you work with?

The field of coaching has been gaining a great amount of interest for me. I have done some volunteer work assisting defensive backs and special teams on the high school level, I also talk to the DB’s here at Cal every chance I get to discuss small things that could potential help their techniques out. Clean technique, and having a tough attitude can make an ordinary athlete extraordinary.

Hopefully the right opportunity will present itself to allow me to get into the coaching arena.
What coaches and coaching lessons have stuck with you the most over the course of your playing days and now , and why?

I was fortunate to have played for coaches who expected me to be disciplined and tough both physically and mentally. In high school Coach Tip Saunders taught me that the hard work always pays off. In college Dewayne Walker taught me that size does not matter, heart does. In the NFL coach Cowher taught me that a true team is made up of individuals who take pride, accept, and execute the role.

I have carried each of these lesson both on and off the field and they have made me the man I am.
You were signed by Pittsburgh as a free agent after two years in Detroit. What sold you on Pittsburgh and what did they tell you your role would be?

The funny thing about coming to Pittsburgh is that originally coming out of Cal I was undrafted. During the seventh round of the 2001 draft I was talking to ten teams who told me that I would be a good fit for their teams. The two teams that seemed like the best fit were the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I chose the Lions because I felt it gave me the better opportunity to play early.

Long story short we did not win very many games in Detroit and Pittsburgh still had some interest in me. There was a lot of talented vets in the secondary so I knew that I would be making my mark as a specialist.
Who helped mentor you as a new Steeler – both on and off the field – and how did they do so?

From top to bottom the Steelers locker room contained the greatest group of teammates year after year. Everyone spoke to each one another, everyone made sure that we were on the same page.

The DB’s were a tight group and Mike Logan really looked out for me and made sure that I adjusted to the team as well as the city of Pittsburgh.

 Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams – what made them so – any examples?

Chad Scott, Dewayne Washington. Definitely a funny guy, he and Dewayne Washington definitely made practice and meetings hilarious. Their spirits carried on in the secondary even after they left the team.

It was a funny locker room in general with Kimo, Deshea, Troy. There was always a contest or game going on.
You carved a very particular niche for yourself as a special teams “specialist”. How did you find yourself in this role – what made you such a good special teams player?

I really battled in training camp in order to have a more significant role on the Defense however after having a discussion with Coach Cowher, he explained the importance of special teams and how by playing them I could have a major impact on the team.

I always took pride in getting double and triple teamed and also having players from the other team pointing in my direction as a threat.
How much of an inspiration did your parents serve for you as Nigerian immigrants who “made it’ in the US?

The passage that my parents made from Nigeria to America in order to give my brothers and I a better opportunity is very inspirational. I never take anything for granted and hope to be as good a parent as my father is.
How heavily were special teams stressed under Coach Cowher in practices – and how did he do so?

Special teams were a very important part of practice. Everyone was involved, even our big lineman would run down and provide looks.

Coach Spencer did a great job and Coach Cowher would also come around and having been in the “trenches” give you some insight on an angle or move that you could use to improve your tactics.
Can you describe how you deal with the stress that the lack of job security creates for specialists like yourself in the NFL? How did you deal with that stress – especially in 2006 when you found yourself playing for four different teams in one season (including Pittsburgh twice)?

Hah. 2006 was a crazy year for me. Honestly because of lack of job security, you never get to comfortable. That was hard for me to do because the city of Pittsburgh and the fans are so great.

Basically, every training camp you expect the unexpected and have faith that your resume speaks for itself in the opinion of other teams.
What did the Steelers tell you in 2006 when they brought you back that second time?

Originally, I was only supposed to be off of the roster for a few weeks until the team got healthy and then two weeks turned into three. I planned on being a Steeler again at some point that season so when the call came that they needed me, I was ecstatic.
Any thoughts on the rules changes in the NFL – especially on kickoffs from the 30 and the two–man wedge rule?

As a guy who has had my share of bumps and bruises, I agree that player safety is an important aspect however, I think some very exciting aspects have been taken away from the game.
What are some of your favorite memories as a Steeler?

My favorite memory as a Steeler was running out of the tunnel at Ford field for Super Bowl XL. I started my career in that city and six years earlier and it was overwhelming to realize the longevity of my career at that point.
Any last thoughts for readers?

 The Steel city is one of the greatest places on the planet. Thank you for the memories.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jeffrey Cohan permalink
    December 7, 2011 4:37 pm

    If you see a guy wearing an Iwuoma-29 Steeler jersey at Heinz Field, that’s me.

    I’m from the Cal faction of Steeler Nation and I really admired Chidi’s work on special teams.

    Thanks for giving us this update!

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