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Kendall Gammon, Steelers Long Snapper, 1992-1995

February 28, 2013

Kendall Gammon:

First, you’ve been a busy man since your NFL playing days. Can you let readers know what you’ve been up to?

First, I’m the sideline voice for the Chiefs radio network. I started in 2001 on my off days as an intern on a local sports talk radio show, learning the ropes. The next season they gave me my own who, and that’s how I got started with that.

When I retired I took a year off to decompress after a fifteen-year career. Then I was contacted by the Chiefs radio network again to work with them.

I’ve also written two books – Life’s a Snap and Game Plan. I took notes feverishly in my career – my coaches always had things to say I could learn from and I didn’t want to miss any of it. I took their thoughts on leadership and teambuilding and wrote my books on those.

I’m also becoming more integrated with the Chiefs now. I have a new show on the internet. I always thought I had a face for radio, but now I’m on the screen (laughing).

I went to college at Pittsburgh State University in Missouri and now work full-time as their Director of Advancement. I raise funds for scholarships for the university and have been doing so for five years. Not that they aren’t paying me, but this is my way of giving back to the school – a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.  It was always confusing – I went from Pittsburg State to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I always tell people I went from Missouri to Pennsylvania, otherwise it’s too confusing…

I also have a wholesale retail nursery that spans 43 acres. I don;t know much about the business so I have someone that runs that for me. A while ago I started my a commercial property and casualty insurance company with a couple of partners. We’ve now merged with the second largest privately held insurance company in Kansas City.

So, you keep busy!

I have an edict from  my wife to take on no more jobs! I keep busy. Not out of fear, I just guess I didn’t want to become the stereotype of the NFL player with nothing to do after football.  I didn’t want football to define me. I feel like I transitioned ok…

That is a good segway to my next question. How did you transition so well, and does the NFL do enough to help former players make the post-NFL transition?

The NFL early on didn’t do a great job. Now, they’ve come full circle and are making a great effort. They have tuition reimbursement and offer career internships and other programs. Not all players take advantage of them as they should.

It’s tought to go from playing in front of thousands of people then stopping. I used to joke with my son when I helped coach his football team, that I’d go from playing in front of thousands to running on to the field in front of a hundred or so people to get the kicking tee. 

That change of status is hard for many to handle. You have to take advantage of the programs.

What were your thoughts when you were drafted in the eleventh round by the Steelers in ’92?

I was just happy to be drafted by anyone (laughing). The Steelers were steeped in such tradition. I knew about them of course but your don’t realize until you get there what kind of city and people they are. I loved it all – the people and city were awesome. Being in Pittsburgh was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a great organization and I felt fortunate and honored to be there and tried my best to represent it.

Who helped you most to adjust to the city and team – both on and off the field?

I was pretty self-sufficient. You have to help yourself, really.

One guy was Ariel Solomon. He and I became close – we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things.

And having my wife there was very helpful, I have to say. It’s a stressful business, trying to keep your job every week. I remember one day coming back from Latrobe, not feeling good about that day’s practice. My 5’6″ wife was standing in the hallways with me, catching snaps. That’s how it was….

What was your role on the team then, outside of being a long-snapper? How did you spend your practice time?

When I came into the league, most didn’t have a long-snapper specialist. It was really the last position in the NFL to be taken for granted like that before it was a position of its own. I was a backup the offensive line and could get the team through a game if needed. I also ran the scout team of course, like anyone else, and took reps in practice on the offensive line.

Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams you played for, and what made them so?

Tunch Ilkin was a great guy and was good to me in his l;ast year before he went to Green Bay the following year. The late Justin Strelczyk was a jokester. he was a fun-loving guy. My locker was next to Kordell {Stewart}, Chad Brown and Deon Figures. We were all young guys. And Greg Lloyd was pretty out there. To say the least. Bubby {Brister} was a personality too. You couldn’t match his personality.

I remember Kevin Greene once as I was coming into practice, using the ball machine to shoot balls at people as they walked through the gate on to the field. But I remember most the guys on Thursdays and Fridays after practice, going to the Clark Bar and playing cribbage, believe it or not. Just having a beer or two – nothing big. There was lots of camaraderie on the team. It was the closest team I’ve been on in my career.

You have to give Coach Cowher credit. He weeded out the guys that didn’t fit and brought in real leaders, like Kevin Greene. We worked hard and efficiently. We didn’t work too long or too short. Coach Cowher was upfront with us that different players got treated differently. I didn’t expect to be treated the same as Rod Woodson. He was tougher on me and I appreciate that – it made me a better player and extended my career. I was very impressed with Cowher and the rest of the coaches. I’d mess around with Marv Lewis. This was a team that when I left and saw the people, I’d still talk with them at length. I remember when I made the Pro Bowl when I was playing for Kansas City – the first long-snapper ever selected to the Pro Bowl – Cowher was the AFC coach and I had a good time talking with him and the coaches.

You left the team in 1995 – what prompted that and how hard was that for you?

It was awful. It was the hardest thing I had to do, leaving the team, except seeing my kid in the NICU unit for two weeks. I got a phone call during my nap when I went home after practice asking for me to come in t the Steelers office. My wife asked me what was going on and I knew right away they were calling to tell me I was cut.

They brought in Kirk Botkin from New Orleans to replace me. They wanted a position player who could also snap. I was in tears, I’m not embarrassed to say. The next day, New Orleans signed me to replace Kirk Botkin – the guy that took my place in Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh cut Botkin a couple of weeks later, too. It’s funny….that’s the NFL…

What are your best memories of Pittsburgh?

I remember staying at the Hilton at the Point. It was a beautiful day and my wife and I went for a walk. Just the beauty of the skyline and the city. It’s a great memory for me.

Driving back through the city after practices – the hills and skyline… I loved that. And Western, PA gold courses are some of the best in the country. I’m an avid golfer. I ordered a set of gold clubs within an hour of making the team! I figured that even if they cut me tomorrow, at least I’d get a nice set of clubs out of it!

Going up to Mount Washington with Kevin and Terry Greene and seeing the city is a great memory. There’s so much personality in the city that many people don’t know. And coming into the city through the Fort Pitt tunnels and seeing the city open up in front of you – wow – it’s indescribable.

On the field, it was a young team. Many of the guys were my age – young, newly married. Practices were never a drag – it was always fun to go to practice.

I remember by first game – in Houston. It was Cowher’s first win as a coach. And the AFCC games we lost and won. The highs and lows. And I remember all the people stomping in the stands on game days at Three Rivers. They were feverish fans. It was a pretty cool thing.

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