Tim Tyrell, Steelers Running Back, 1989
First, can you let readers know about your new business venture. How you got started with this and why you chose this venture?
Right now I’m the Director of Marketing Development for a company that sells premier brand appliances – stoves, refrigerators, freezers – premier high end appliances. We also sell lower end stuff too. We have four stores in California and just opened one up in Chicago. We sell other items too – all plumbing supplies and more. We do it in a really unique way – all in one live showroom. It’s a totally new concept – we have four chefs and five baristas – it’s an experience – like Lexus does. You need to see it to really understand and appreciate it. We’re opening up stores in Dallas, Atlanta, New Jersey… and a bunch of other places after that.
My job is to meet with the architects, designers and builders – to develop relationships with the bigger influencers. The executive team here is great – the want people to love their lives. And I have always loved the selling experience.
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 did a lot of different things coming out of football – all geared towards selling. I sold fitness equipment – acted as a broker for equipment from places that went out of business. I also did technical recruiting for eight years for the manufacturing industry. Then I worked for various entrepreneurs after that – trying to find that feeling you get right before kickoff. It’s had to find that – and I think we’re all trying to look for that when we leave the game. At least just a little dose of that, and I think I found that here. With this company and it’s $16 million dollar showroom – it really is just stunning.
You came to the Steelers in ’89 after five years playing for Atlanta, Buffalo and Los Angeles. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh – and what was your role with the team?
I was released by Buffalo in training camp. My area was special teams. I was waiting to get picked up. I always received accolades as a special teams guy – I kicked as at special teams. I had my success there. The Steelers had need for a fullback – I think Carter went down with an injury. So really, at that point, you go to where whoever wants you. You wait for an injury and that open roster spot. It was a blessing being in Pittsburgh. It was a fun year for me. That’s how it goes – you don’t choose – they find you.
What were the biggest differences you found between Pittsburgh and the other teams you played for?
If they don’t know you, you really have to re-assert yourself. I had my own rep factor – I was a two-time Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. But they didn’t know me. It was a tight team. Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley and Dermontti Dawson were great guys. And it was interesting to me how Chuck Noll delegated things. he as a great coach.
It wasn’t hugely different from other teams. I remember in Buffalo Marv Levy had us study the rulebook every week and we’d have meetings on it. Really – another meeting?! Chuck – he as just a well-oiled machine.
Bubby Brister and Merrill were hilarious. All the women loved Merrill but he was such a gentleman. Him – hanging with Bubby… Bubby was just so outgoing – those two together were just a funny combination. Bubby was just so much more crazy – I went out with those two sometimes.
And of course we had special owners. I knew the history there – it was just a class operation. I still get letters from the team they send to all of their alumni. It’s great that they do that – not all the teams do.
How competitive were all of the running backs and what veterans helped mentor you as a new player on the team? Both on and off the field – how did they help you adjust?
We all helped each other. You could see how talented the other running backs were. It was obvious who would play – who was better. Merrill was built for that spot. I knew I could kick major ass on special teams. I knew my role. You know that what he coaches decide is accurate. And my opinion didn’t matter anyway. I focused on my job. I knew my playing time was on special teams and that’s where I shined.
I remember once I got into a fight in practice. Delton Hall hit me when I was way out of bounds. It cut my lip…I went crazy on him until the other guys broke us up. I was just on the scout team! Later in practice they ran a sweep to the right and a wide receiver was blocking Hall and I ran right at him and knocked him over. I threw the ball at him and went at him again – I’m glad someone broke us up again. That’s the unique thing about it. At the end of the practice you both ask each other if you’re ok and you go back to the locker room. I didn’t really want to slug it out with those guys – I already was knocked out enough times as a 250 pound fullback flying around the field.
What veterans helped mentor you as a new player on the team? Both on and off the field – how did they help you adjust?
Dick Hoak was a great student of the game. His expectations were high for you to know what you were supposed to do so we all knew what we were doing. He’d get fired up if you did something wrong.
It was a good group. We’d go out after games…and the and were just nuts. That was different from other places. Nuts in a good way. Intense. I went to the Super Bowl in Detroit and guys were dressed up in full gear. To watch the game! That was unbelievable.
Carnell Lake was a good guy that helped me. Merrill did. I remember Rod Woodson gave us all on special teams $100 when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He was unbelievable how fast and strong he was. Dwight Stone too = he was like a heat-seeking missile – he as a stud. A great athlete – I remember them trying to find something – a role for him there.
What part did humor play on the team 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?
The funniest thing I remember was Merrill and the ice tub. He was sitting in the tub and I bet him $50 he couldn’t stay in the tub of ice up to his neck for a minute. He told me I was on – so we starting throwing ice in the tub. He was up to his waist like it normally would be to ice your legs. But if it gets up past your heart for that long it’s like suicide. Well he calls over three ball boys to cheer him on. He goes up to his waist and he just has this calm expression as he kept telling the ball boys to keep cheering. Well, he lasted the minute – he ended up doing it. He came out looking like a tomato. I gave him his $50 and told him that was the greatest $50 ever. It was crazy – he could have had a heart attack!
I also remember Bubby. He was just nasty. Always had a big chew and spitting in a cup. One day he came to the tub totally naked. He stands where all the powders and lotions were and, balls hanging out as he was talking to the guys in the tub, just takes a whole thing of powder and puts it on all over his chest and starts patting himself with it into this big cloud of smoke. “That’s just about do it,” he said, then just walked away. That was Bubby….He should have been a defensive lineman – he had that kind of mentality.
You left the team and NFL after the’89 season. What brought that on and how difficult was that for you?
I came back in ’90 but was the last player cut in practice. I had a great camp but they went in a different direction that year. I had some great hits on special teams and it was a close call. But the body can only take so much. The next year my knee locked up and I needed knee surgery again. I said that was it….
Training camp then was insane, remember. Guys were just laying into each other before games It was too much – it beat us up too much. The Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t allow for that anymore and that’s the way it should be. It ended too many careers was to early. It’s a great gig – outside of the pain. You don’t leave the game – it retires you.
What are your favorite memories playing in Pittsburgh?
The whole experience was a dream come true. I met some great friends – guys like AC/DC that I met when I was with the Rams and the guys fro the Spin Doctors… I met and did so many amazing things. I was very outgoing and made things happen that way. I’m a big rocker and loved meeting those guys. I’m thankful for the people who gave me those opportunities. I’d encourage everyone to use those experiences as leverage to open up doors – and not to harp on all the negative parts of the job and life!