Craig Colquitt, Steelers Punter, 1978-1984
First, can you let readers know about your life after football what you are doing now and how you got involved in this?
I am a Senior Sales Director in the southern and mid western region of the county offering custodial, maintenance and grounds services to the K-12 school district industry.
You were a third round pick of Chuck Noll’s in ’78 – were you surprised to be drafted that high as a punter?
No I was disappointed because Dallas said they were going to take me in the fifth round. However, until Joe Gordon on draft day asked ‘What I thought about playing with the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mean Joe Green, etc. After tearing up a bit I said I had not thought of the team dynamics in that way.
I was suddenly excited!
You had to beat out four other punters to win the job – what was your greatest asset as a punter that enabled you do so?
Noll and Haley drafted me because I had not had a punt blocked because I took only two steps, punted to the sidelines for maximum coverage or ran avoiding a block. The previous year for the Steelers’ punting was a disaster so I became a gamble worth exploring. I did not do well the first exhibition game but everyone else did worse.
Who helped mentor you as a rookie – took you under their wing and helped you adjust to the NFL both on and off the field?
Chuck Noll and Dick Haley (Combine Scout) talked to me like I was punting on a golf green. I knew I had the talent. They taught me pro football is show business and that preparation (practice) will make it seem second nature. Jack Lambert was my ‘Smash mouth football hero’. He was one of many I wanted to please. He always pushed me to be successful.
Off the field I rarely left Gerela, Barr, Trout, Anderson or Cliff Stout’s side. We were partners in pranks and observing the fans.
How much emphasis did Coach Noll place on special teams and how did you practice special teams in camp and during the week – what drills did you run most?
Noll was a perfectionist. He did not want us in any drill unprepared. A mistake to Noll was wasted time. I did not lift weights. I ran a lot, everyday. My preparation theory in my time was natural flexibility and endurance. I weighed 183 pounds. Today my sons (Chiefs and Broncos) both weigh over 210 pounds, with endurance and flexibility.
Noll also did not want a lot of kicking. The season was long, therefore make very kick or punt count.
How close were those Steelers teams you played on, and how much did humor play a part?
I was welcomed to my first camp by Swann, Bradshaw, Bleier and many others. I was just a county hick from Tennessee, but the team and the organization made me relax and want to go to work.
Who were the guys that played the jokes – any examples?
Bleier, Stoudt and I handled most of those duties. Menthallatom in the jock. Spilled Skoal in socks. Vaseline placed in places that took time to remove.
Mike Webster, John Kolb and I used ankle tape to bind Bleier at his last practice before retirement. It was about twenty-seven degrees and raining. I tackled Bleier, which he did not fight, and Webster and Kolb did the taping. They even carried Bleier to the goal post and tied him upside down to the base pole. The whole team looked, laughed and left the field with Bleier still handing.
About thirty minutes later Coach Noll brought a freezing blue Bleier back into the locker room in a shooping cart. Bleier of course had his constant smile. Noll pushed Bleier into the locker room saying, ‘Here, I don’t want him either.’ It was a good retirement memory.
What would surprise fans most about some of those Steelers teams you played for – what were some of the under appreciated causes for the team’s successes?
I had great respect for the charitable approach of the team and the administration. This alone was uplifting and uniting. In the locker room during the week it was a playhouse. No one took anyone serious. This took the sting of the butterflies out of the building. I think we all knew that too much seriousness will wear a person out.
You have two sons and a nephew who have been standout punters at Tennessee and the NFL. What is it about your family and punting – how have all of you been so successful?
Lots of prayer! After my nephew and I had our moments in the NFL I had and participated in many kicking camps. I love it. I love coaching. Noll taught me that a great gift you can someone is helping them realize their full potential and a lot of times beyond.
What have you noticed has changed about the position since you played?
The punters and some kickers are bigger. That it is the physical art I always have thought it to be. The size difference, flexibility and concentration is what I saw in Reggie Roby, Ray Guy and many others. Standing next to a guy and see him send a ball fifty plus yards is still magic to me.
The money has changed about ten-fold.
What is the biggest misperception fans have about punters, do you think?
‘That they are just kickers!’ Most of these guys today are multi-talented athletes. I think people like to label all the players, but get to know them and what all they can and do on and off the field is refreshing.
You were the starting punter in the Super Bowl your rookie season. How did you handle that pressure and what do you remember most about the game and week leading up to it?
The best words are ‘fog and drama’. My head was in a fog and I thought God was going to flip the coin. The build up for that game is perfect.
If someone wants to know show business and feel stage fright…I know just the place. The whole week leading up to the game is a media blitz. Endless meetings and interviews. The fog for me really set in when we pulled up in our bus at the Orange Bowl. I think it was Dwight White who said in his deep penetrating voice ‘It’s Show Time!’
Any last thoughts for readers?
Find your opportunity. This still is America! I have no idea why God put me here but I have never said ‘Never’. When I realize I am in an opportunity of a good nature, I say God lets’ go.
I hope the Steelers play the Broncos in the playoffs. The Romneys are wonderful people.