Kimo Von Oelhoffen, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 2000-2005
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career and Arcadian Cove. Tell us about the business, how you get started and why?
I was extremely fortunate to play for fifteen years in the NFL; in turn it allowed me to pursue and establish a second career while still playing. Between years seen and eight,, I began to pursue two of my other passions (second and third to football, not knowing my career would go that long. I love to develop projects from start to finish; from the idea to the completed project. Developing business infrastructure, procedures, and protocols as well as building the TEAM.
My third passion comes from growing up with my grandparents & being fortunate to have people mentor me, care for me, and teach me core values and characteristics – and what it means to give back. This passion is to improve the lives and opportunities of our young adults and our elderly population.
These two passions came together when my construction & development company got the opportunity to develop and operate a Senior Living Community, which you know as Arcadian Cove. This community has recently maintained my complete focus due to the opportunity I have here to provide excellent quality of life for the Residents and the prospect of a great career to my employees. In addition – I am able to help provide unlimited volunteer opportunities for the youth in this community to engage our senior population; so much so, my staff has won a Kentucky state award plus an honorable mention in “Excellence in Civic Involvement” over the last two years.
At this point, my construction and development company has been winding down so that I may move my focus more towards maintaining Arcadian Cove and pursing my number one passion: FOOTBALL.
Since leaving the NFL, I have been coaching high-school football and training young adults in the characteristics and fundamentals needed to be productive citizens and athletes.
What lessons from your time in the NFL helped you manage this business – and did the NFL provide any post-NFL career services to help you adjust?
Playing under great coaches and for a great organization (NFL) helped me learn the core values and characteristics of the team and the individual. This knowledge allowed me to build a solid foundation for Arcadian Cove by hiring the right individual and training them for the job. Playing in the NFL helped me to recognize the qualities of not only a good team player, but a winner. During my time with Steelers I learned that some players, while they may not be the most talented or have great physical attributes, they will find a way to win. This lesson helped me to build a winning team at Arcadian Cove!
The NFL provides many services to help players in their post-playing career. I believe the foundation has a good set of resources for any player that chooses to utilize them. For myself, playing so long and starting my second career early, made the only hard part of my transition leaving my teammates and coaches.
In ’99, you came to the Steelers after five years in Cincinnati. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh, and how much grief did you get from the Steelers players after having been a rival for so long?
As a player you long to play against the best to gauge yourself. Playing against the best is the ultimate challenge to know where you stand, mentally, physically and fundamentally. During my career with Bengals, when we played the Steelers I recognized they had an un-wavering resolve for physical and mental pressures. The style of play, the ferocity, the physicality and sometimes the deception – were some of the biggest challenges for me in my career. And I wanted to be a part of that team!
When I got to Pittsburgh, the players were actually very welcoming. I’m sure they may have had some reservations, given I replaced one of the best nose-guards to ever play the game; but the support and approach they took make me feel like I was home.
Who on the Steelers team helped you adjust to the new team/culture the most, and how so?
I must say it was mostly a team effort, but a few people do stand out. Aaron Smith, Levon Kirkland and Chris Ma’afala.
Aaron Smith had an approach to the game that inspired me. His work ethic, his character, and his willingness to do whatever it took to do his job helped to develop a bond between the whole defensive line.
Levon Kirkland, who had played behind Joel Steed, showed confidence in me after the first practice. His communication on the field, his approach, and his willingness to work with me on patterns of the defense helped me to grow as a player.
Chris Ma’afala had the upbeat personality and a kind spirit that made me, and I’m sure the team, feel like one family.
The Steelers seem to have a strong connection with Hawaiian and Samoan players – you, Polamalu, Nua, Fuamau-Ma’afala, Kemoeatu … why do you think that connection is so strong and has been growing across the NFL as of late?
I think there’s two attributes that have allowed young Polynesians to steadily excel in Football. Many Polynesians are fortunate to have large physical attributes which gives us the opportunity to play in more physical roles.
Growing up in Hawaii (in the early 80’s) there were some Polynesians that played in the NFL; and as young Polynesians we would become inspired by this possibility. A culture of football started at a young age and grew in Hawaii. Hawaii began to develop strong programs in football training and competitions, which has led to many more opportunities for Polynesians.
What were the major differences you found between the Bengals and Steelers organizations, and how did they affect you as a player?
This is a really tough question to answer as both organizations had great standards, great expectation, and clearly defined job descriptions. The one difference for me as a player I found was the element of trust. With the Steelers, there weren’t any questions on what was expected of you as a player; they were clear, they were precise & they were consistent. And every member of the organization portrayed that definition. It allowed me as a player, to truly evaluate myself; my strengths, my weaknesses, and my production. There were no excuses, just a plan and a process to improve every day to meet those standards.
How difficult was it for you to take on the role of mentor, especially with players you know are vying for your roster spot? Shaun Nua for example spoke highly of your and Troy Polamalu’s generosity in an interview with him (https://pittsburghsportsdailybulletin.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/shaun-nua-steelers-defensive-lineman-2005-2007/). And is that something you found unique to the Steelers organization?
The first great lesson I learned came from Coach Dick Lebeau: the TEAM. “We win as a team. We lose as a team.” And for a team to truly be strong, you need every member of that team to be the most productive they can be. It takes a selfless approach. So answering this question is actually more difficult than it was to perform the action of becoming a mentor to new players. They were my teammates, and we were together to win; regardless of what my role was. BUT, I would never let anyone outwork me – so whatever I taught them, I would do ten-fold.
How was your adjustment to playing DL in the 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh? Was it hard to adapt to a style that meant less “glamour” for you as a DL and Who helped you learn the ins and outs od the 3-4 in Pittsburgh?
The adjustment was fairly easy. I had played three years in Cincinnati, under Coach Lebeau. I had a pretty clear understanding of the fundamentals of the defense. As far as no glamour in that position – glamour’s got nothing to do with winning! I was there to win, period.
You read a lot about the loss of leadership on the current Steelers team as it looks to transition from veterans to younger players. Who were the leaders on the Steelers teams you played for and how did they assert themselves as leaders?
As far as leadership with the Steelers during my tenure, the overlaying factor for me in leadership were those that lead by example. How we treated each other, how we practiced, and how we played. We were fortunate in Pittsburgh to have a veteran team that was very unselfish and very competitive. The atmosphere was to challenge everybody, everyday; from playing video games in the lounge – to the last period of a practice. When you have a large group of guys that portray these qualities, everyone becomes a leader.
Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities?
The first person that comes to mind is Dermantti Dawson. His personality, his smile, his willingness to say “Good morning!” and “Hello!” to every single person in that locker room from the oldest to the youngest. It was unfortunate that I only got to spend a couple of years with Dawson – but that lightness, that openness in that first year helped to spread that team attitude. When you have one of the best players to ever play the game smile and treat a rookie like a veteran – rookies never forget that. And as they grow, they tend to portray those same characteristics and it spreads like wildfire.
Jerome Bettis is another one of those guys. His ability to make everyone feel comfortable yet competitive I believe was a huge part of our team. Again, he was a Hall-of-Fame player who took the time to treat everyone as he would want to be treated; to compete in a manner of which you couldn’t wait for the next competition. Those attributes are great to see as a young player and a veteran and it also spreads like fire.
After five years in Pittsburgh, including a Super Bowl win, how difficult was it for you to leave the team in ’06 and play for the Jets?
It was the second most difficult decision in my life. The ultimate question came down to what was best for my family. The part that still haunts me to this day – is that it became a financial decision.
What made the decision somewhat easier was that an amazing player, who backed me up while playing for the Steelers, was able to have the opportunity and did what we all knew he would do by becoming one of the best Steeler Defensive Ends to play the game, Brett Kiesel.
What are your favorite moments as a Steeler?
Walking in the first day of training camp and seeing Coach Cower and Coach Lebeau – the smiles on their faces and the passion in their eyes gave me this feeling of total inspiration; it was one of trust & an unwavering resolve, to build a team that wins! I got this feeling again, when we played in the Super Bowl. That is a feeling that I will never forget.
The second favorite moment during my Steelers career was the Friday before the Super Bowl. We were at practice in Detroit that ended around 2pm; two days later we’d be playing in the Super Bowl. I go into the weight room to get a work-out in, and its 40 minutes after practice – I look around the weight room and see the same thirty guys that I saw every Friday leading up to that game and I knew at that point that we’d gave ourselves an opportunity to win that Super Bowl. That, I will never forget!
Any last thoughts for readers?