Garry Howe, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1992
First, can you let readers know about your new post-NFL career. How you got started there and what your job/business venture entails?
For the past eleven years, I have been working for Wells Fargo in West Des Moines, IA. I finished playing football in 2001 for the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League. I met my wife, Connie, that year and decided to quit playing and settle down. I started at Wells Fargo as a temporary employee through a temp company.
How hard was it to find a post-NFL career and what about your time in the NFL helped and hurt your ability to find your next career?
I could answer this a couple ways. First, I actually continued to play football in the World Football League (NFL Europe) [1995 – 1997] and the Arena Football League [1995 – 2001]. I worked part-time jobs in the off seasons, but nothing permanent as I knew I wanted to keep chasing the dream of getting back in the NFL.
Secondly, it was very difficult to find a career post football. I have my Bachelors of Science in Business Administration (majors in Accounting and Marketing) from the University of Colorado. I figured this would be a positive, but by the time I started looking for a career, it was ten-years old. Having the NFL on my resume helped me get interviews. I felt as though I got a lot of dumb jock brush off. I received some…you have never sat behind a desk and this is a desk job…can you handle this? The hardest part was going from such an elite position to a temp job I felt any reject could get. I was taught a big lesson in humility.
What lessons from your days in Pittsburgh -and the coaches-do you find yourself falling back on in your job now?
Joe Greene always said ATTITUDE was everything. Steve Furness was all about the details. Chuck Noll was all about helping where you are needed. I can’t remember who told me the most important play in football is the next play. This has helped me tremendously as it is always important to keep a positive attitude. While writing my technical documents in my job….details are everything. Deadlines always sneak up on you and if I can reach out to help others, we succeed as a team. If a production issue hits, lets get it resolved and keep moving forward.
You started your professional career in the World Football League’s Frankfurt franchise. What was that experience like for you and how did that prepare you for the NFL?
I was actually on the Practice Squad during the entire 1991 season. This made me a free agent at the end of the season. Chuck Noll retired and Bill Cowher was hired. Bill signed me back for the 1992 season and asked me to go to the World Football League to get some game-time playing experience, so I did. The experience as a whole was not very good. We only won one game. We lived in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Traveling around the world was fun. I had a much better experience in Amsterdam (1995 – 1997).
You signed on with the Steelers in ’92. What made you decide to sign with and play for the Steelers?
I tried out for the Steelers at college. They were the first team to contact me after the draft. I signed a free agent contract with them and reported in June. The Steelers were the only team on TV while I was growing up and we saw them a lot during that decade. They were my favorite team growing up.
It was pretty awesome when they flew me in to try out. Joe Greene ran me through some drills. I signed later that day.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to the NFL game -especially as a nose tackle? How did you make handle that adjustment?
In college, I played defensive tackle. I had a lot more freedom to move around. At nose tackle, you are getting double-teamed every play and are always locked up on the center or guard. I had played some nose tackle in college. I played whatever was asked of me. Check Noll had me playing offense for the majority of 1991 season.
What veterans helped mentor you as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Gerald Williams was a big help. We played the same position and worked out in the off season together. David Little was always constructive, as was Keith Willis and Donald Evans . I didn’t hang out with the guys off the field a lot. Mostly Justin Strzelczyk…we rode motorcycles together on occasion.
How did you as a player “on the bubble” deal with the pressure of making the squad? How much did humor play a part in that-any examples?
I was always “on the bubble”. I’m not sure people really knew that I never made the squad coming out of camp. I was cut three times by the Steelers. The first year I was cut in the final cut and signed back to the Practice Squad. The second year, I was cut in the final cut and re-signed back to the Practice Squad. I was moved to the active roster after Gerald Williams broke his hand in week four of the 92 season. I backed up Steed for four games until I finally got to start for two weeks.
Gerald came back form his injury and I remained the backup for the rest of the season. I didn’t get much playing time from that point. I did get an appearance at fullback. Coach Erhardt put in Goal line Stumpy. Stumpy was the nickname given to me by Myron Cope. I was the blocking back for Barry Foster. At the beginning of my third season, Gerald was moved to Defensive End. Being that I was second string at the end of the last season, I was hoping to be the starting nose tackle. I ended up starting camp third string behind Cowher’s third round pick (Joel Steed – 1992) and sixth round pick (Jeff Zgonina). I was released for the last time in the final cut. Both those guys went on and had very good NFL careers.
What part did humor play on those Cowher teams in terms of keeping players loose? Were you part of the locker room hijinks and humor? What were some of the funnier moments you remember and who were some of the funniest players on the team?
I remember training camp of 1992. It seemed like we were in a monsoon for two weeks. It rained non-stop. Practice was miserable. You couldn’t get your feet and the field was a mess. I think the weather broke Cowher. Instead of a morning meeting, he had lined up buses and took everyone to the movie for the day. It was amazing how that helped as we were all dreading going out to another wet practice.
Who were the leaders in the locker room on the teams you played for – and how did they lead? Any examples?
Dermontti Dawson and Gerald Williams. They always worked hard and were always helpful.
You ended up playing for six professional football teams across three leagues over the course of your eight-year career. How difficult was that for you and what do you say to fans who see the sport as all “limelight and glory? ”
Football provided some great experiences and it also provided a lot of disappointment. It was obvious early on that the best players didn’t always make the team. I knew when I was in Frankfurt in the Spring of 1992 and Cowher drafted Steed in the third round that my time with the Steelers was short lived. I ended up staying on the Practice Squad and getting activated later that year. Then going into camp the following year third string behind a guy that I started in front of was very difficult. I knew it was all over a that point.
I was in camp with the Bengals in 1994. We had our last preseason game on a Thursday night. I didn’t get any playing time. They kept a guy [Kimo Von Oelhoffen] who got hurt in the first preseason game and didn’t practice or play until the last preseason game. Kimo went on to have a great NFL career. That wasn’t the worst part. The Bengals made us practice Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and cut me on Monday. I ended up with the Colts for the 1994 season. They were numerically out of the playoffs that year and cut a number of players with two weeks left in the season. I am sure it was a money decision.
I am not saying that I was the best player, but I was playing in front of people that went on and had great long careers in the NFL. While in the World League (95 to 97), the NFL was really pouring guys into this league. I was an All World League player in 1995 and didn’t get a contract offer. NFL teams were suppose to get all this film. One would think that making the All World League team would get you a look. I hope people understand that when a player gets cut, they do not receive a penny of their contract.
What are your favorite memories playing in Pittsburgh?
Being introduced as part of the starting defense was by far the best…Steve Furness promised me it would be and he didn’t lie. In 1992, I had some incentives in my contract. I met the playing time incentive. I only had two sacks and needed 2.5 sacks to get that incentive. The Steelers paid me the sack incentive, even though they weren’t obligated. I used to go out in the parking lot after the games and visit with the fans.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would like to thank all the Steeler fans for their support while I played there. I hope I made you proud and carried on that Steeler Pride!!!