Wayne Gandy, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 1999-2002
First, can you let readers know about your new broadcasting career – how you got started, how it’s going and where you’d like to take it?
The show is called SportsJoc with Wayne Gandy (http://www.TheSportsJoc.com) and we’re out of Atlanta. We’re hoping to by syndicated by the end of 2012. That’s the promised land. I’m also talking to Steven Spielberg about a movie in 2014.
Have you spoken to any other former Steelers like Wolfley, Ilkin or Nelson to get advice? If so, how have they helped you?
No, I haven’t spoken to anybody in the Steelers organization about doing radio broadcasts. I actually didn’t know I had a gift to do this. My mom had me in the choir when I was a teenager and that helped me get rid of my stage fright. Now I’m ready to run my mouth. It’s a great task and very challenging. With my football background and love of sports, it’s a natural fit.
Is it possible for you as an ex-player to view a game strictly as a “fan”, versus analyzing the game as a former player?
Watching live football is like football practice to me. Watching it on tv is ok.
I delight in seeing high school games in person. I watch them more for entertainment. The NFL games are more like practice.
You came to the Steelers as a free agent in ’99. What made you decide to choose the Steelers? I’m assuming their offer was not the highest one you received?
Jerome Bettis talked me into coming to the Steelers. I was playing for the hapless Rams and loved the opportunity to play for a playoff-driven team like the Steelers. To go somewhere I was wanted and that suited my personality was great.
Upon arriving, what players were most helpful to you in terms of adjusting to the Steelers – both on and off the field? And how?
Dermontti Dawson, the legendary center for the Steelers at the time. I still don’t know how he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He helped me settle in, and some of the guys like Jason Gildon and Lee Flowers I was friends with already.
It was an easy adjustment. The city is like a a big college town. There was great support . It was a very natural and easy transition.
How did the team differ from your experiences with the Rams? Was it better or worse for you in your opinion, and how so?
Comparing Pittsburgh to St. Louis on football? Enough said to that…
Your first season in Pittsburgh was the team’s last in Three Rivers. How exciting was it for the team to move into their new stadium the following season and how did the new stadium help you a a player and team?
First of all, the memories of Three Rivers were extraordinary. We beat the Redskins the last game and brought in legends like Franco Harris and Mel Blount – those guys. To have them in the locker room was very inspiring.
I was happy to see Three Rivers go. A lot of people don’t know it, but it was the worst facility I’ve ever been in in my life. You had to take a shower in two feet of water – with the soap ring around your ankles. You had to get out of the shower and take another bath in the sink to get the soap ring off of your ankles.
Moving to a new facility in Heinz Field was great. I liked grass – Three Rivers was a turf field so for me that was the biggest plus – to be able to avoid some of the injuries that old turf caused.
After not making the playoffs since ’97, the Steelers won the AFC North in 2001 and almost reached the Super Bowl (losing to the Charger in the Championship Game). What was behind the team’s turnaround in ’02?
Well, coming off the ’01 loss and Brady’s coming out party…the Patriots beat us in that championship game. That was the first time I ever cried in sports. It drove all of us to have a better season and get back.
The next year was started off sluggish. Coach Cowher showed us some kind of movie clip with an old man yelling out the window. I don’t know why he thought that would motivate us. I got up and ripped the team a new butthole. And from that point on we started winning (laughing).
When people ask me about my best memories as a pro, my four years I played in a Steelers uniform was the best hands down, though I do have to give kudos to my 2005 Katrina team.
Throughout much of your time there, Kordell Stewart was your starting quarterback. How was he received by the team and how was he as a leader?
I had to teach him to be a leader. I’m not patting myself on the back but when I got there Kordell had a big, pretty house. I told him if you want these guys to play for you, you should invite them to your house. We even got him to break his Chinese rule of taking off your shoes.
Once he allowed players to come in and eat on that good food – and he had a wine cellar. I don’t drink but we drunk up all his wine and we won him over. In sports, all you need is alcohol and food for a football team.
How difficult is it blocking for a mobile quarterback like Stewart – what do you do different as a lineman for a quarterback like that and do you sympathize with the heat the current Steelers line takes for the sacks they give up due to Ben Roethlisberger’s scrambling tendencies?
The line they have now…they haven’t had a good line in three-to-four years. As you see if you watch the sport, Ben has taken a lot of hits and is almost a game-time decision each week. He always has an injury. Some of that is because they went young and got rid of the older players up front.
Mobile quarterbacks – whether it’s Michael Vick, Kordell Stewart or Randall Cunningham, they are not difficult to block for. You just have to understand that if you give up a sack sometimes it’s just them trying to make a big play and you can’t get down on yourself.
But sometimes they make it easier for you as well by avoiding some of the pressure.
You left after the 2002 season. How hard was that for you and what were the seasons for leaving?
Well, the New Orleans Saints put a big contract in front of me. If you want to know they tripled the offer the Steelers offered me.
It was hard to part ways. The Steelers were the team I saw myself retiring with. That kind of mentality and those guys really fit my profile of professionalism and the way I liked to play the game on the edge.
Going to New Orleans was an adjustment. But when one man is offering you a dollar and another man is offering you three dollars, it’s kind of hard to pass that up.
What were some of your best memories as a Steeler?
My best memory was probably just how the team hung out. You know if you live in Pittsburgh there not a lot of places to go. It was different than a lot of teams. It wasn’t just three or four guys hanging out. It was ten, twelve, fifteen guys.
If a guy said he was having a charity event, you’d find half the team was there. That was not normal – usually you had two-to-three good friends, but in Pittsburgh you had a lot of the team support, on and off the field.
The organization, even now (I haven’t played since 2002 as you said earlier) – they still send me Christmas cards. Out of all the organizations I played for, they are the only team that has continued to show support and reach out, even with a Christmas card and invite back with free travel to see games and things like that…
Any last thoughts for readers?
Go Black and Gold!