Martin Nance, Steelers Wide Receivers, 2008-2009
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself since your time in the NFL and are you looking to get back into football in some capacity?
Well after wrapping up my time in Pittsburgh, I decided to apply to graduate school. I’m now wrapping up my second and final year at the University of Michigan where I will be getting my M.B.A. next month. Business school has been the ideal transition for me following the N.F.L. and I appreciate the continued support I receive when I bump into Steelers fans.
You were a highly touted receiver at Miami – how did injuries ultimately affect your draft status and how disappointed were you in going undrafted in 2006?
Well as a competitor I did everything possible to battle back from my injury. I’m sure that the injury made teams nervous and I think it did hurt my draft status. To go undrafted was tough, but looking back I realize that everything happens in God’s plan. In retrospect, I don’t think I would change anything. I grew a lot through that experience.
Fortunately, I was able to come back and play several years in the N.F.L. and be a part of an awesome World Championship team.
After playing for the Bills and Vikings for your first few seasons, the Steelers picked you up as a free agent in 2008. What made them look to sign you and how excited were you to play again for your Miami teammate, Ben Roethlisbrger?
I was really excited to join such a great franchise, and I couldn’t have come on board at a better time. I had a chance to get to know Coach Tomlin when we were both in Minnesota and I think that we had a lot of mutual respect for one another. Also having played and in a way, grown up with Ben at Miami, I think he and I always dreamed of replicating that chemistry again.
Being in such a different offense and different places in our respective careers didn’t really make that chemistry possible.
Did Ben give you any special welcome – and having had known Ben in college and the NFL, what changes did you see, if any, in Ben Roethlisbrger from those college days?
Yeah Ben was very welcoming, but that wasn’t a surprise. He’s done a lot for me going all the way back to my visit to Miami’s campus. He’s still the teammate I remember, super competitive and loves to play the game. He has intangibles that will never be fully appreciated.
What is the biggest misperception people have, in your opinion, of Ben Roethlisberger?
I’m not really sure. There are a lot of them, but I think that’s par for the course when you have someone in the media spotlight. People often think of him as a gunslinger, but I think he deserves more credit for his accuracy and poise.
Who else helped you adjust most to life as a Steeler – both on and off the field, and how so?
Heath Miller. He made me feel welcome from day one. He’s such a high character guy and he and his wife were great supports for my wife and I as we adjusted to the city. I can’t say enough about the respect I have for Heath.
Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams and what made them so? Any examples?
Well there’s a bunch of them. The team has some great personalities and is a group of great guys. I can’t imagine that locker room without guys like Casey Hampton, James Harrison, and Brett Keisel. All are great teammates and leaders in the locker room.
You resided on the Steelers practice squad for most of ’08 and ’09. What was your role on the squad and did you feel like you were starting to get “traction” in terms of soon seeing playing time in regular season games?
Well I got a chance to stand in as the opponents number one wide receiver for most weeks. That was a lot of fun, because I got to compete against great players like Ike, RC, and Troy every week. I took a lot of pride in pushing those guys so that when Sunday rolled around, work in some cases got easier. Once we got into the year, I gained to confidence of the coaches and I think that believed I was prepared and ready if we needed to make a change.
You won a Super Bowl ring with Pittsburgh. What can you tell us about how the team approached the game – what the mindset of you and the rest of the team was. Any examples?
So focused, but still very relaxed. I think that the team continued to have fun with the process. When it was time to work, we did everything with excellence. We studied and practiced like we had done for every game. No one got uptight, and the entire team trusted and believed in the guys around them.
I can remember the entire secondary dancing and joking during our team picture in Tampa, but as soon as we stepped on the practice field, it was all business. Coach Tomlin did a great job managing the personality of the team.
After suffering another injury in 2009 season, the Steelers released you. How difficult was that for you and what did the team tell you?
It was tough. An athlete never wants to be injured, but that’s a reality of this game. Fortunately, I have a great group of family and friends that encouraged me to stay positive and I quickly transitioned on in my long-term career.
Football is great chapter, but like all of us, we have a lot more life after the game. Coach Tomlin expressed his respect for me, as did Kevin Colbert and Coach Randy Fitchner. I appreciate the way that the Rooney family runs the organization.
What are you favorite memories as a Steeler and what made them so?
One of my favorite memories was the parade the city had for the team after the Super Bowl. As cold as it was, Steeler Nation was amazing. Everyone came out and showed their love and support for the team. People were hanging out of eighth story windows; they had banners, jerseys, and anything else you could imagine to show their pride. That’s a memory all the guys will cherish for a long time.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I just want to thank Steeler Nation for all the love and support. After having played in a couple other cities, I realized just how special the city of Pittsburgh is. I can truly say I believe the N.F.L.’s best fans wear Black and Gold. Let’s stay connected (@MartinNance) and a special thanks to my big sister Dr. Melonie Nance who lives in Pittsburgh.