Mike Logan, Steelers Safety, 2001-2006
First, can you let readers know about your coaching job – what you like most about the job and how you chose to take it?
I coach High School football at University Prep. Prep is a city league school located in the Hill District. I enjoy mentoring kids. I tell my players that I’m a life skills teacher who understands football.
I want these kids to have success off the field as well as on it. I want to help these kids understand that they have a purpose in life bigger than being an outstanding athlete. These kids are resilient. They don’t have all the resources that bigger schools have available to them, but they press on.
I chose to coach here after being offered several jobs because of the Head Coach Lou Berry. He personally extended an invitation to me. I interviewed and accepted the job to coach Defensive backs & Special teams. I had assisted in coaching a track club that Lou founded. His core values & character as a man is what drew me to him. He is a family man and loves to help other children. I really had no interest in coaching football though. It’s a big time commitment. But the opportunity to mentor kids is what I wanted to do. I can relate to these kids because I live in their neighborhood.
What coaches and coaching lessons have influenced you and your coaching style most, and how?
I’ve had many influential coaches throughout my career. I think I’ve taken a little something from them all.
My first coach Jim Marone (West Mifflin) taught me the game of football at the age of six. My high school coach George Smith (Mckeesport) taught me to be a student. My college coach Don Nehlen taught me the meaning of doing my job by expecting nothing, not complaining, and going all out.
Once I made it pro the coaches expected me be professional. Coach Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville Jaguars) had a dictator type style, while Bill Cowher’s (Pittsburgh Steelers) style was more player-oriented. They both were fiery coaches & I find myself getting emotionally charged when I coach as well. There are numerous assistant coaches who taught me lessons, but Hall of Fame coach Dick LeBeau amazed me with his ability to teach as well as relate to the players year after year despite being involved in the game for such a long time.
I can go on & on about people who have coached me in my thirty years of football.
You’ve also done a good deal of Pittsburgh sports radio work. Are you still doing so (if so where?) and how difficult is it for you to remain impartial when covering a team you’ve played for?
Yes I’m still doing sports talk radio. I have a weekly show on the Internet for TribLive media. You can tune in @ http://sportstalk.triblive.com/tribradio/mobile/ I also do the color commentary for the Pittsburgh Power (Arena League Football Team) and I recently did the color for my Alma Mater West Virginia University for ROOT Sports.
It does become difficult to not be a “homer” when covering the local sports teams. I’m a Pittsburgh Sports Fan by nature. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and my family has always bled Black & Gold, but I have to be professional. It’s my job, my livelihood. I must admit I have lost some friendships with former teammates by giving my opinion. It hurts but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t do my job with integrity. If its meant for that friendship to flourish then God will have them forgive me and bring them back into my life.
Who helped mentor you as a rookie and taught you about life in the NFL – both on and off the field?
The first person that mentored me as a rookie was Chris Hudson. He was a safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He helped me adapt to the NFL lifestyle.
My former collegiate teammate Aaron Beasley was drafted by the Jags a year earlier so he was able to show me the ropes. I can recall getting some advice from veteran running back James Stewart. He gave me some sound financial advice. However, I didn’t take heed and I regret not paying attention to him. I’m now paying the price for being hard-headed…literally!
Ironically, the person who taught me the most about life off the field is younger than me. Troy Polamalu lives a life that glorifies God. I learned so much just by observing his behavior. I continue to look up to him by the way he carries himself. He helped me spiritually mature. My faith has become my top priority in my life. My fiancé Jennifer Rivers continues to help me stay steadfast on seeking Gods heart away from the game. She’s an awesome Woman of God.
You were drafted by Jacksonville and then found yourself in Pittsburgh in 2001 after your contract ended up. What made you choose to sign with Pittsburgh and how different was that Steelers team from Jacksonville (and how so)?
I decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free-agent because it was a dream of mine as a child. The opportunity to play for the team I grew up idolizing was amazing. I also knew that I had a great chance to play for a Super Bowl. I probably “left some money on the table” as they say by coming home to play, but I wouldn’t trade the experience. (I had better monetary contracts offered)
The teams were similar in that I had been coached defensively by Dom Capers who was an assistant coach for the Steelers. I was familiar with the system when I arrived in Pittsburgh. They were different in the fact that Jacksonville was still considered an expansion team. They had only been in existence for a few years when they drafted me in 1997. The Steelers were rich in tradition and history.
The team was deep at defensive back in 2001 when you signed with Alexander, Flowers, Townsend, Washington and Bell all there. What was your role on the team and how competitive was the defensive backs group in terms of playing time? What determined who played when?
The defensive backfield was very competitive. I was battling Brent Alexander for the Free Safety position. I had moved from Strong Safety. Brent was very smart and he remained the starter, but I accumulated a lot of playing time by being able to play multiple positions.
We had so many defensive packages, and sometimes we would have six defensive backs on the field at the same time. Eventually, I ended up being named the starter a couple years later.
What was it like for you to play for your hometown team and was it difficult avoiding distractions being that close to home?
Playing for an organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers is indescribable. I was born in Saint Clair Village on the South Side section of Pittsburgh and raised in Whitaker Projects in West Mifflin. I only dreamed that I could make it out and grow up to be a professional football player, let alone for my hometown team the Steelers!
My grandfather was the ultimate Steelers fan and he worked in the steel mills. (He passed away) before my dreams came to fruition, but I always felt his presence on the practice field. The J & L steel mill where my grandfather Theodore Harber was one of the first African-American safety-managers was demolished and the Steelers practice facility is now housed there.
I was emotional when I signed my contract as my father and I looked out the window at the land where my grandfather had worked. Playing professional football In your hometown is a blessing because your friends and family get to see you up close and personal as you accomplish your dreams, but can quickly become a heavy burden.
Between juggling numerous ticket request, time demands, financial stressors, and everyone pulling at you, you still have to learn your play book & play football! I experienced all of that but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I truly feel blessed. I was able to come home and spend time with my mother who passed away at the age of 51. She said one of her proudest moments was seeing her son play in the Superbowl for the Steelers. I’ll always have that memory entrenched in my mind.
You suffered a season-ending injury in 2004 after re-signing with the team. How did that affect your ability afterwards to play and how is your health now?
If I can complain about one thing in my career it would be injuries. I feel like I cheated my fans because they never really had an opportunity to see me play at 100%. I was able to make the roster every year because I worked hard in the offseason to get in tip-top shape, but the continual process of beating down my body eventually caught up to me with age.
I’ve had five football-related injuries that required surgery. I still have three metal plates in my forearm & ankle. I had two total posterior knee reconstructions. At 38 years old now I have arthritis in my hand and wrist & tendonitis in my knees. I also suffered from depression after I retired. It’s hard to adapt without the game that you played for so long. I also had four documented concussions. The long-term effects of them have yet to be determined.
In an interview with us, Chidi Iwuoma said that you were one of the players that really helped look out for him. What about the Steelers fostered that mentor mentality across the players and how did it help you?
Chidi is a great guy and was an excellent player. I miss his presence here in the ‘Burgh. He was a Cali guy on the East Coast. I figure since I was playing in the city in which I was born that I would extend hospitality to him. He’s very humble and easy to get along with. That made looking out for him easy. We made friends and helped each other on the field and hung out off from time to time. He was a chill guy that didn’t want all the attention and that was perfect. We hit the low-key spot around town and stayed away from the main scenes.
I really didn’t have teammates looking out for me because I was playing at home. My family and friends were here so they figured that I’d be taking care of.
Who were some of the biggest characters on the Steelers teams you played on and what made them so? Any examples of the hijinks/funny stories?
Joey Porter had to be the biggest character that I played with. He always had something to say. But his desire to be the best and play the game at 150% made you love him.
Lee Flowers was also a very vociferous player as well. He was my roommate when we went on road trips. He lived the NFL life to the fullest. I admired his style and he spoke what was on his mind no matter what. I’ll never forget him calling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers “Paper Champions”!!!
What do you think of the direction of the NFL today in terms of player safety and increased emphasis on the passing game? Is it better or worse for the fans and players, and why?
I think the NFL as a product will sustain the times. The game has definitely evolved. Players are bigger, stronger, and faster. I think the equipment and rules changes will help cut down on injuries, but all football players know the risk we take when we sign the contract.
I don’t think even after seeing the long-term effects of injuries and concussions that it will deter many athletes from playing this game. However, I’ll personally say this. After the your playing days are over you get a heavy reality check. When your health coverage is up and you need medical attention, you look back and think about the sacrifice you put yourself through and it hurts. The life expectancy of professional football players is going down. Someone once told me “you take a year or two off your life expectancy for every year you play in the league.” well I played ten years and I’m a black male. Black males average life span is 69 years old. So when I think about my life possibly being over at 59, I ask myself was it worth it?
As I look at my Super Bowl ring I struggle to answer that question. I don’t want to seem selfish. I have children and I need to be here for them to leave a legacy that helps them live a righteous life.
Any last thoughts for readers?
My last thoughts for your readers are please don’t think I don’t appreciate the game and all it has done for me. I’ve been very blessed and hold no animosity towards the game or anyone. I was able to accomplish my childhood dreams and win a Super Bowl playing for my hometown team. How many people can say that?
I guess I’ll admit that I’m a little scared of what may come in my future. But no man can see what’s ahead and I’ll rely on my faith to get me through. I wanna say thank you to every person that helped me get to where I’m at in life and I appreciate every fan that’s ever cheered for me. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Please visit my Facebook Fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Logan/172466129453867 to share your thoughts or just say hello…
If you don’t mind I wrote a poem to Junior Seau that I would like to share with your readers…
I feel ya pain Junior,
I’ve been where you were at,
it’s not a comforting feeling
when you feel that no1 has your back.
Even with a multitude of resources,
you still feel alone.
Pride takes over mind
& we don’t know where to turn.
With a warriors mentality
we fight through the pain,
we push our hurts aside,
& keep pressing through the rain.
People all around us
but isolated is our soul.
Fear of judgement & ridicule
we walk the path alone.
Why is it we suffer on the inside,
but present ourselves fine on the out?
We take on every challenge of life
like it’s a boxing bout.
Standing all alone
We shoulder every burden
Trying to stay positive
But internally we are hurtin
Life after the game is tougher,
than life on the field
You can’t call a timeout
Life will not stand still.
Saddened by your departure
I really don’t know where to start
So many others like us
Life after the game is harsh!
I wish I could have prayed with you
I don’t know what I would’ve said
It’s hard to understand our thought process
With so many things going through our head.
The NFL must realize
that something needs to be done
I don’t have all the answers
But its time to address this one.
Only you & God knew
what was going on in your mind
Your brain will go to research
We don’t know what they’ll find
Concussions come with our game
& Depression sets in fast
We play football most of our lives
Forever we think it will last
But when it’s over & done
It’s hard to accept the fact
We hold on to precious moments
Praying we’ll get them back
It’s here that we struggle
We try to find a way
But nothing satisfies our appetite
Except when we’re on the field of play
So I’ll end by saying I miss you
You done some much for the game
You were the definition of integrity
You were always Hall of Fame…©