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Tom Myslinski, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 1996-1997, 2000

March 19, 2012

Tom Myslinski:

First, can you give readers a quick rundown of your coaching career since your time as a player in the NFL?

I completed my Masters at Pitt in Exercise Physiology, and then worked five years for the Cleveland Browns (two as an assistant, three as head strength and conditioning coach).  I also worked four years in the NCAA at Robert Morris, Memphis, and North Carolina.

As of January 27th of this year, I was named the Head Strength & Conditioning coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

What coaches and coaching lessons do you find yourself thinking most about now as a coach, and why? 

It just so happens that the coach and mentor that had the greatest impact on me, I never played for. His name is Tunch Ilkin. Tunch took me under his wing and taught me how to be a man and play the game.

You were big on helping others with strength and conditioning techniques even as a player – former Steeler Chris Combs spoke of how you helped him in Pittsburgh. How did that strong appreciation develop, and how does your approach differ from that of others? 

First of all, I was very fortunate to be a son of a coach.  I learned what it took at a very young age.  My father taught me to love the process more than the product. 

Secondly, it continued because I was an undersized, average NFL offensive lineman that had to fight for his job every year.  I was always on the bubble so I could never allow myself to relax. Therefore I had to find the most efficient and optimal way to train my mind and prepare my body. So I started studying and seeking out the greatest strength and speed coaches in the world.

I knew that every year I had to enter training camp in season form in order for a shot to make the team. To this day, my approach is very simple: the more I know, the less I change.  I only read evidence based research and never get persuaded by the Internet gurus, the fast-talking personal trainers, and all the latest, greatest gimmicks on TV. 

Proper training is quite straightforward if you understand your strengths and weaknesses, regeneration and recovery, the energy demands and the neuro-muscular requirements of the unique position of your specialized sport.  It’s a science but the application is an art!

You’ve coached in the college and NFL ranks – what do you like/not like about each and what brought you now to Jacksonville? 

Since I’ve played in the pros, I have an extreme appreciation for the athletes here and the demands of the game.  I enjoy serving and teaching all athletes about how to take care of their bodies, a.k.a. corporation.  I want them all to be successful and to live a long, healthy life mentally and physically post-football. 

I was brought to Jacksonville by a former Steelers player and coach, Mike Mularkey. 

You were drafted by Dallas in ’92 but found yourself in Washington that season. As a rookie, who helped you adjust to the NFL, and what was your biggest adjustment?

It was a terrible first year.  I got hurt on the fourth play of an inside run drill on the first day of training camp.  That injury set me back physically and mentally.  I really struggled my first couple of years regaining my confidence. 

To top it off, I was already very hard on myself. I had to relearn how to think – thanks Dr. Elko! But the person that stood by me through everything, and continues to do so, is my wife of nineteen years, Amy. She has always believed in me, my work ethic, and abilities.

After five seasons, you were signed as a free agent by the Steelers. What brought you to Pittsburgh and why did you decide to sign with them versus other teams?

I played pretty well versus Pittsburgh twice the previous year when I was on Jacksonville’s inaugural team, and my contract was up.  I always revered the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lines.  I’m probably one of the very few kids that grew up and hated every other position on the field except for the offensive line. 

As Jim Sweeney says, hands down we are the greatest athletes on the field.  Everything we do must be taught from run blocking to pass blocking.  Nothing is natural.  In fact, I wore number 52 in high school because Mike Webster was one of the players I admired.

Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams, and what made them so? Any examples?

Besides the prominent players, I’d have to say Justin Strzelczyk, Jerry Olsavsky, and our special teams coach, Ron Zook.  Jugs (Strzelczyk) was everybody’s buddy and lived care-free, Jerry O because he’s Jerry O, and Ron Zook because he was on a natural red bull high every day.

When was the first time you got “The Chin?”

We were in Japan for a preseason game in 1996 and my roommate and I took a mid-afternoon nap before our team meeting at 7 pm.  Needless to say, the next thing I know, Chet Furman, our strength and conditioning coach at the time, was banging on our door because we overslept and didn’t hear every alarm going off in the room. 

The first thing I saw when I sprinted downstairs was Coach Cowher snarling at me.  I don’t think I slept another wink until I got on the plane after the game. 

You left Pittsburgh in ’97 after two seasons, but returned for another in 2000. How difficult was the move for you – and did you get any good-natured ribbing on your return? 

Looking back, I should have never have left.  I loved it there – from the coaches, to my teammates, to the city – and still do.

You played for seven teams (eight if you count both tours in Pittsburgh) over nine seasons in the NFL. Can you describe the difficulty in so much change – and do you think that fans and media lose sight of that side of the game? 

I’m going to be straight up – moving sucks!  And once you throw kids into it, it’s terrible.  In fact, I’m in the middle of one now.  There are only so many great players out there.  Life for the average Joe in the NFL is a rough one.  A family’s love, and a strong independent wife, is the only thing that can survive a move.

Who were some of the toughest players you lined up against – both in practices and on game days, and what made them so?

Every year when Pro Bowl voting took place, Dermontti Dawson, Jim Sweeney and I used to state how we wish we could vote for the best nose guard in the League.  We practiced against him every rep of every day – Joel Steed.  He was a stalwart!

What are some of your best memories of your time in Pittsburgh?

Without a doubt, the birth of two of my three children, off-season training in Three Rivers Stadium, the camaraderie of my teammates, nights after the game at Frank-N-Steins off Babcock Blvd., living in the South Hills, and the Steeler nation.

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