Jason Capizzi, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 2007-2008
First, can you let readers know what about the Golden Equipment Company – how you got started and what your role is there?
Golden Equipment is a large commercial equipment dealer that sells to different public works offices and contractors in the states of WV, PA, and NJ. We sell many different product lines but our top three are Street Sweepers, Sewer Camera Inspection equipment, and Sewer Cleaners. I am currently the Vice-President/General Manager of this 30 year family-owned business. The gentleman who is the owner of Golden Equipment contacted me in December 2013 and said that his Vice President just moved on to greener pastures and he is looking for someone to take over his company and manage the sales aspect and everyday operations.
Before Golden Equipment I was working as an outside sales rep for Guardian Protection Systems, selling security systems residentially. I loved my time at Guardian but didn’t want to be in the field selling every night. I was looking for an opportunity to better my life and make my presence known in the business world.
What about your time in the NFL and with the Steelers helped prepare you for this role – and did the NFL in general offer post-NFL career help that got you started?
The NFL teaches you the entire spectrum of how business and politics work in life. Being that I was an undrafted free agent from a D2 college you get to really see how sometimes it has nothing to do with talent level. That is something that really helps with the industry I’m in. Sometimes we are low bid on a piece of equipment by a substantial amount and ours is ten-fold better than the competition, but they will still buy the competition for no good reason.
Another thing that the NFL has taught me that helps in my career now is that you will not win them all, especially in sales. Just as an offensive lineman can attest, you will not win every one on one battle out on the field. No one is ever perfect, and if you play a perfect game you should retire then and there because you will never duplicate it again. Same as in sales, you win some you lose some. Not just the NFL but football in general teaches you toughness to fight through adversity and keep on moving forward regardless of circumstances that arise.
You were/also are playing in the United Football League for the Las Vegas Locomotives. How has this experience been for you and tell us about the UFL league in general.
Playing in the UFL was so much fun. I really wish that league had the financial backing to make it and stay around longer. The UFL was built as a league to eventually become the minor league for the NFL. When the NFL said they want nothing to do with it, it eventually collapsed on itself. There were many guys that wanted to get back into the NFL and others who never got an initial chance to do so. After trying my hand at the NFL and being a backup for so many years all I wanted to do was “play”. To just go out there have fun and win games. From that standpoint it was great. Not as much pressure and we just enjoyed ourselves every day.
It didn’t hurt that we were living in Las Vegas all expenses paid while playing in the UFL either.
You were picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Steelers in 2007. What made you decide to sign with the Steelers and how exciting was it for you to sign with your local team, having gone to high school in Gibsonia at college at IUP?
I had gotten calls in the fourth round of the draft on from many different teams but for some reason none of them had pulled the trigger and drafted me. When the draft was over I was a PFA for eight different teams, one of them being the Steelers. Being that I was a lifelong Steelers fan and my father had season tickets to games since 1972 I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play for the hometown team. Getting the opportunity to sit next to guys I watched and looked up to my entire life was something that every young man in Pittsburgh dreams of. Walking out of that tunnel and looking up at my parents in the very seats that I used to sit in was a special feeling that can never be duplicated.
Who were the players on the team that helped mentor you as a younger player, and how did they do so? Any examples? And how did it help you specifically?
The NFL is such a business and so cutthroat that it is sometimes tough to look up to someone as a mentor while on the team because it is every man for himself. So from that aspect you really had to just work with the coaches and try and better yourself everyday on your own. Don’t get me wrong though, there were many guys on the team who I considered friends that would always pick you up when you were down and help out with different techniques to make you a better player. Some examples would be Max Starks, Trai Essex, and Charlie Batch.
How competitive was the offensive line corps for playing time, and how helpful were your peers?
The offensive line was very difficult to make any headway with the Steelers. There is a ton of seniority and coming out of a D2 school no one really expects you to do much. I was not given as much playing time as I would’ve liked but all I know is every day in practice and in preseason games I gave it my all and tried to get better each day. In the end I am not mad at all because I left it all on the field. What happens in the coaches office for playing time is out of our hands and we can only control what is done when we are in there playing.
Your teammates are helpful to a certain extent but in the long run everyone is fighting to make the team themselves and it is tough to trust what someone else is telling you because you never know if they are giving you false information to make you look bad.
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?
The locker room on an NFL team is very comparable to the Improv Comedy Club on a Friday night. It is nothing but pranks and jokes and things that will keep guys laughing for hours. It is a time for guys to let loose because it is such a business at all other times we could just be ourselves and have fun. I cannot divulge any different scenarios that happened in there because that is against the unwritten rules of what goes on in there but between the stories told, and the silly games being played it is always a place that I miss very much.
Other than the paychecks we made, and playing in front of the hometown fans, the locker room and the camaraderie that you share with guys is one of the biggest things I miss the most about football. Some of your biggest pranksters in there were Ben, Scott Paxson, Hines, and Jeff Reed.
Since 2007, you’ve played for eight professional football teams. How difficult has that been for you and do you think fans see that side of a player’s struggle to make the NFL and the pressure they face to do so?
What a player goes through trying to catch on to an NFL team cannot be shown on any HBO show or in any newspaper. You are out there on your own just hoping that someone will like you enough to keep you around and give you a chance. Sometimes it has no bearing on who the best player is making a team and it just depends on politics, like in any business. That is hard for a 23 year old man to swallow at that age.
The public thinks that guys who are in the NFL are all millionaires and can retire and live happily ever after when it’s all said and done when in all actuality the average player is in the league for 3.1 years, I just so happened to get four in. Sometimes that’s the worst part of it. Being cut is hard enough if you’re not good enough of a player, but when you are cut just because the team can only keep so many numbers then it really hurts. But like I said all you can do is give it everything you have and hope for the best.
Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against,, and what made them so. Any examples?
I had the opportunity to go against some of the all-time greats with the Steelers and it made it very difficult to make a team because these were some very difficult opponents. For example, James Harrison is someone who I had to line up against every single day and he was an absolute beast. Aaron Smith was also someone who was very difficult to manhandle. I had one series against Julius Peppers in a preseason game and he kind of made me look silly for three plays out there. James Hall and Chris Long from the St. Louis Rams were also very tough competitors.
What advice would you give younger players today coming into the NFL with the same sort of skillsets you came into the league with? And why?
If I had to give to advice to anyone trying to come out of a small school and make it big time in the NFL it would be to make sure that you are always ready to show what you got. Sometimes you might only get one chance to show that you belong on a team and you will never know when that is going to be. If you do not perform how you are expected to perform at that one opportunity you might never get another chance again. And also do not dwell on what happens if you make a mistake or get beat in a competition. Analyze it, correct it, and move on to the next snap because if you don’t it might be your last.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I’d like thank you for the opportunity to comment on these questions and I’d also like to thank the Steelers organization for giving an unknown from a small town the chance to live out his childhood dreams. It is something that not many people can say they did in their lives. I am very blessed from everything that the NFL has given me and taught me in my life.