Jahine Arnold, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1996-1998
First, can you let readers know what you have been doing with yourself career-wise since your time in the NFL?
Since I retired from the NFL I have had quite the journey: Green Bay to Tampa, Tampa to Brazil. Not only the locations I have been in, but what I have had to deal with.
I left the NFL in 2000, my last team was the Green Bay Packers. Before Green Bay I spent three years in Pittsburgh with the Steelers. My post NFL career involved a few years in Arena Football, being a loan officer, mortgage broker, and part-time web designer. Leaving football after playing for more than half of my life was a difficult transition.
One day I woke up and football was over for me, I can say it was one of the best experiences in my life.
You were diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis in 2007 – the same disease Walter Payton was diagnosed with. How is your health now and how are you working to combat this disease?
2007 brought a new challenge, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a.k.a. Walter Payton’s Disease. PSC is a condition of the bile ducts, they basically close off so that the bile cannot enter the stomach for digestion. It has changed my life, it has changed my thinking about life. Walter Payton announced his illness in April of 1999, and passed away from complications in November of the same year. I am doing what I can do to stay in the best health possible.
Walter’s story really had me thinking I would already be gone. I face everyday issues with PSC, itching, fatigue, I am irritable, I cannot maintain a consistent weight, I feel that my body cannot follow my mind, forgetfulness, and sleep problems. That is a short list of things I feel from PSC, there are more that would require additional explanation.
Right now I sit in a position where I don’t know how this will end. I don’t have insurance and I am without a deposit for the transplant list. I have had some great assistance though. I have worked with P.A.S.T. P.A.S.T. is an organization that assists former players with medical procedures that are otherwise unattainable. I do not know where I would be if it were not for them.
Has the NFL and/or the Steelers helped support you in any way since your diagnosis – and do you have any indication as to whether it affected you as a player at all?
I did not receive any assistance from the Steelers directly, but I also did not ask them for assistance. I didn’t think asking them for help would have led to anything, it just didn’t seem like that was the correct route to take. I did find other organizations to help…The Player Care Foundation, Dire Needs, Players Trust Fund (which are NFL related), Gridiron Greats, and as mentioned before P.A.S.T.
It isn’t easy to go from a world class athlete to being in a situation like this. Not being able to compete in sports, or exercise as I feel I want to do is very frustrating. And it also isn’t easy asking for help when you aren’t accustomed to doing that. If I think back and try to determine if it affected me during my football career, I am not sure. I do you know that during my entire career I was unable to gain weight. This is the only symptom I can tie to those days.
You were drafted by the Steelers in ’96. What were your thoughts then on being drafted by the Steelers and what role did you play as a rookie?
Being drafted in 1996 by the Steelers was definitely a shock to me. I only started playing football my senior year in high school, then attended junior college and played there also. Never did I think I would go to the NFL. I always thought I would play pro basketball. That was always my passion.
While playing at Fresno State University some rumors of being drafted started to arise, I still didn’t really comprehend this concept. One day a broke college student, the next a well paid pro athlete. It all happened so fast that I didn’t stop to think about what was happening, I was being drafted into the NFL.
When I was drafted by the Steelers, the only thought I had was that I knew it was somewhere cold. I wasn’t sure exactly where Pittsburgh was, I just knew it snowed there. People ask me what it was like to be in the NFL, and they want to hear some great story about some event. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t really consider myself different from anyone else. I went to work and went home after, I had a normal job in the off season, and I loved to just be what I call “Off the radar”.
My rookie experience probably will most likely be the same or very similar to all rookies, you have to learn a lot very fast and develop a professional routine. Everything you do now is business, no matter how you want to think about it, the NFL is about business. Not a here today gone tomorrow situation, it is a here today gone today possible situation.
Who helped you to adjust to the NFL as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
As a rookie I performed a multitude of duties, I played wide receiver, I also returned kickoffs and punts. I enjoyed everything I was involved in with the Steelers when it came to playing, it seemed as if I ended up on a team that really involved their rookies. My adjustment as a rookie was helped by those around me, the other players.
The other receivers were especially helpful to me, we were a good group of guys that were always talking and joking. If there was ever anything I wanted to ask, none of the guys had any problems trying to answer it for me.
As a receiver, who taught you the most about the position and who’s style of play did you emulate most, and why?
I didn’t try to emulate anyone, I always just did what came natural to me. I was a speed guy, having a background in track and being a runner my entire life made it easy for me in certain aspects of the game. Now that I can look back and see things more clearly, I am glad I never tried to be like someone else. As always, I was simply going with the flow. Not knowing what is next but only dealing with what was happening in the moment.
You played with Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart. How were those quarterbacks different in terms of leadership and how they were viewed by the players and coaches?
I played with Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak during my years there, Neil O’Donnell was gone when I arrived in 1996. Both to me each had their own qualities. Obviously Tomczak had the veteran experience with a long track record, where Stewart had more athletic qualities. I liked both guys as men, both friendly and willing to communicate about issues on or off the field.
I think the leadership abilities were about the same, people felt comfortable in the huddle with either of them. They seemed to be well liked by the owners, coaches, and staff. The Steelers in general were a top class organization, and for the most part employed accordingly.
In ’98, you left Pittsburgh to play for Green Bay. Why the move and how difficult of a move/adjustment was that for you?
In 1998 I was given up by the Steelers and picked up by the Green Bay Packers. The move to Green Bay was a pleasant one. Such a different atmosphere, such different mentalities there. It really felt like everyone knew who you were regardless of how “Off the radar” you tried to be. I really liked my time in Green Bay, moving there gave me the opportunity to work for 2 very good organizations in the NFL.
Looking back on the lessons learned from your NFL career and dealing with your illness, what stands out most to you – what lessons about your experiences do you pass on most to your children now, and would you like to see them follow in your footsteps and become professional athletes as well?
Lessons I learned from my football experiences are that you never know where you will end up, time is short and can pass you by, and to take advantage of opportunities when presented with them. I didn’t finish college yet, but I even knew in 1996 that the opportunity of the NFL was only coming my way once and I would be a fool to pass it up.
‘I have lived life as it comes to me, football and general life experiences included. If I can pass on something from my life to my children it would be to just be a good person, and try to live a life filled with doing what makes you happiest. Sports was that for me, I don’t know what my children will pick as their life interest. I never expect them to try to follow what I did, I always hope that they find their own way and do what feels natural.
What are some of your greatest memories as a Steeler and what makes them so? Any examples?
My greatest memory as a Steeler is a difficult one to choose. There are no standing out moments in my head about that. Most people think that I am being humble about that, but I truly felt like I was doing what I had always done, play! The fame (I didn’t pay attention), the fortune (I never considered myself anything other than normal, I spent on many little things and not big things, and I never put money ahead of people), and all the rest of the hype didn’t appeal to me.
Looking back I can say that I wouldn’t change anything about my football life, filled with new and challenging events all the time. These days I have the most important people in my life around me, my great children, my wonderful mother, my loving wife, and a select few friends who I know are really there for me no matter what.
Less is more, and I prove that to myself everyday by reminding always that quality is much more important than quantity. Thanks for the opportunity to share a little about myself. I hope it is informative and gives people a clear general idea of who I am and what I have been through over the years.