Rick Moser, Running Back, 1978-1979, 1981-1982
First, can you tell readers what you have been doing with yourself since your time in the NFL and how you got involved in acting?
I guess I’ll start at the beginning with the acting.
Just after Super Bowl XIV (1980) I moved out to California for the off-season. Why spend the winter & spring in Pittsburgh, instead of sunny warm California were my thoughts. Off-season workouts with the team were not mandatory back then. Anyway – one day I got a call to come back to Pittsburgh to play a team member in Rocky Bleier’s movie “Fighting Back”. They paid for first class airfare, hotel and I think it was $150 per day to basically be a Player/Extra in the background. I remember going up to the Director the first morning of shooting and saying “Make me a Star”. Later on in the day the Director asked me if I wanted to play the role of “the Rookie”. My first scene was with Joe Greene in the weight room. My lines were “Hey Joe , who’s that guy Audie Murphy?”. That one sentence made me SAG (Screen Actors Guild) scale pay for the week which was about 2-3 times what the other Extra Players were making plus I got residuals which I still get to this day whenever it shows (rarely). All totaled, I probably made $5,000 over the decades vs. probably $750-$1000 for the other guys.
Bubba Smith had a role in the movie, and towards the end of the week I asked him who his Agent was. I made an appointment to meet the Agent when I got back from Pittsburgh. During my first meeting they said they had an audition for a small role in BJ & the Bear (TV series). I went on the audition and got the part. I got my SAG card, I qualified for free Health Insurance. Seems like I was in the right place at the right time just like with the Steelers.
Currently, I am an independent contractor for Advanced Exercise Equipment, which is the exclusive distributor of Life Fitness & Hammer Strength equipment in Southern CA. I sell commercial exercise equipment to Schools and Municipalities. I deal mostly with Coaches and Athletic Directors so having played for the Steelers tends to help add credibility to what I tell them.
Was there any part of your playing experience that helped you prepare for your acting career – and are there any upcoming acting projects for you?
Both are short lived careers. There is always someone else waiting to take your spot and replace you. Being prepared and knowing your part applies to both. If you’re not – chances are you won’t last very long. The last acting gig I did was “Dazed and Confused” back in 1993. I was never really an “actor” although I gave it a shot and did OK mostly as a bit part actor. Kind of like football. At least I got (or will get) a pension from Acting as well as from the NFL.
You were drafted in the 8th round by Pittsburgh in ’78. With guys like Harris, Bleier, Thornton and Deloplaine, how concerned were you about being drafted by a team so deep at running back and what do you think coaches saw in you to add you to that running back corps?
I really never expected to make the team. In fact after the 2nd or 3rd week in training camp my rookie year I went up to Coach Hoak and said that I think I’m wasting your time as well as mine or something to that effect. He told me that when he was a rookie for the Steelers he actually left camp (AWOL) for a couple of days. He went home but came back to camp and ended up playing for 10 years and coaching 30+ more. I guess I owe everything to him to him. So Dick – if you’re reading this – THANK YOU!!
I was a decent blocker and must have done well in preseason games on Special Teams. I never played them in college.
Who helped you adjust to the Steelers and the NFL – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Both Rocky & Franco both helped me on & off the field. They were not party guys and had good work ethics. It was a veteran team that was expected to win. We had no rah-rah guys on the team or anyone that tried to fire everyone up just before the game like Ray Lewis who scares me.
What were your biggest adjustments to the NFL – especially coming from a smaller school (University of Rhode Island) – and how did you make those adjustments?
In the NFL EVERYONE is great especially compared to where I came from. Everyone on the team had their part. My contribution was on Special Teams. That was just fine for me as long as I performed well. I knew my place and embraced it.
You won a Super Bowl your first two seasons in the NFL. Looking back on that, do you feel you were able to fully appreciate how special that was. What are your thoughts on how few others can say that same thing?
I say this to everyone – “I was in the right place at the right time”.
I totally appreciate how fortunate I was and am to have played for the Steelers – especially during their heyday when they were really good. It has opened the door and provided me with many opportunities that I probably would have never gotten had I not made the team.
Who were some of the toughest players you faced both in practice and on others teams and what made them so? Any examples?
Donnie Shell by far in practice. He would knock the snot out me (& others) when blocking him. Practice was almost worse than games because we couldn’t cut block in practice and the defensive guys knew this so they often came in full force trying to run you over and we had to meet them up top – and get the snot knocked out of you.
You left the team after the ’79 season, only to return again in ’81-’82. What prompted the departure, and the later return – and how difficult was that for you to leave the team?
I actually left the Steelers 3 days after Thanksgiving in 1980. My 3rd year (1980) I broke my collar bone against the Giants in the first preseason game. I was put on IR (Injured Reserve) for the year.
I had healed and was practicing with the team in November. The coaches wanted to reactivate me to help the team on Special Teams so they had to put me on reclaimable waivers for a 24 hour period after which if no other team claims you – the Steelers could reactivate you. Well long story short, Miami claimed me (and Thom Dornbrook) 2 days before Miami was to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh. We had to move our equipment over to the Visitor’s locker room. I talked Don Shula into letting me in on kickoff team and I made Gregg Hawthorne fumble the ball which Miami recovered. Pittsburgh won the game.
I finished out the season with Miami. I hated it there. I wanted to get back to Pittsburgh. I was spoiled from winning back to back Super Bowls and was feeling I wasn’t finished there so the following preseason in Miami (1981) I had Shula fail me on my physical. My lower back was giving be problems but nothing serious. He knew I wanted out and he waived me. Pittsburgh didn’t pick me up – the Raiders did. So I went to their training camp in Santa Rosa, CA and knew after a couple of days I had no chance of making their team. I lasted a few weeks – got cut – went back home to Thousand Oaks CA and began going back on interviews/auditions in Hollywood.
I finally landed a good role in Tom Cruise’s first starring role movie “Losin’ It”. It was 2-3 weeks of work. I had a contract. But 1 week before my start date – I got a call from the Kansas City Chiefs who had a spot open due to Art Still getting injured. I had a big decision to make. Do the movie with unknown Tom Cruise that could lead to who knows what else or go to the Chiefs for who knows how long. I decided to go to the Chiefs and try and get two more years in the NFL so I would qualify for pension. Hollywood could wait – the NFL doesn’t. Well, I got two more weeks at Kansas City who released me when Art Still was ready to play again. I went back home to Thousand Oaks and started back into Hollywood. One day while driving home from an audition I heard on the radio that Cliff Stoudt broke his hand or wrist on a punching machine at a bar in Seattle.
The Steelers were fogged in after their game in Seattle and had to stay overnight. Cliff and the boys apparently went out and his misfortune was my gain. There was a roster spot open. I called my agent who contacted the Steelers who told me to come in and if I ran a decent 40 and looked in shape they would sign me. I passed and was a Steeler once more. I played out the season and returned the following season – 1982. The guy who replaced me in the Tom Cruise movie – Rick Rossovich went on to do “Top Gun” with who else – Tom Cruise. Not saying that would have happened to me but – who knows. Anyway, I got 5 years in the NFL and qualified for pension. That was my goal.
How had the team changed over those two years – what differences did you notice and how did those differences affect you and the team?
When I came back in 1981 there were a lot of new faces to no surprise. A lot of the older players were gone. It wasn’t the same atmosphere and I’m sure that has to do with the team’s record which was not great at the time. My perspective had to be different as I was now with my 4th team in the same year (Miami, Oakland, Kansas City & Pittsburgh) My memories of Pittsburgh are mostly from my first two years (78 & 79) that are hard to top.
Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams and what made them so – any examples of the humor/hijinks on those teams?
We had no outrageous characters like other teams had. The 78 & 79 teams were primarily veterans with a purpose – to win games, which was also expected in the town. Besides the normal taping players to the goal posts or in a shopping cart and putting Atomic Balm in jocks – the Steelers were pretty mellow. I am sure there are hundreds of pranks I’m can’t recall or can repeat at this time.
What are some of your greatest memories as a Steeler and what makes them so? Any examples?
1. Being Drafted in the 8th round.
2. Making the team each time.
3. Recovering the kickoff fumble against the Oilers in the 1978 AFC Championship game.
4. Winning the Super Bowl twice.
Any last thoughts for readers?
What Steeler teammate of mine was also my tent mate at Camp Acadia in the Catskill mountains when I was 10?
Whose son tried out for the Univ. Rhode Island football team as a punter in 1976 when I was a junior?
Whose son’s family lived in the same town I grew in – Scarsdale, N.Y.?
Where did the Steelers hold their training camp from 1964-66?