Noah Herron, Steelers Running Back, 2005
First, can you let readers know what you are up to these days and how you got started in this new career?
I am currently working for an Industrial Supply company called Grainger. I am a Territory Sales Rep and I have about 500 accounts in my package. I actually was contacted by a recruiter for Grainger, we had an initial conversation and then moved through the interview process. I believe the Lord brought that job to me as I praying about which direction I should go in my next career.
How did your experiences in the NFL help you in this new direction?
A lot of the experiences I had in the NFL are similar but different to what goes on in my new career. First there is teamwork; teamwork, team building and role responsibility is huge in the corporate world and employers really enjoy those who have a good concept of it. Competition; competition with other companies within the industry and also competition between teammates to push and make each other better. Pace is the last ill comment about.
The NFL is such a fast paced industry and a whole year happens in 6 months, in the business world I am in, it takes time to build and nourish these business relationships and it might be months or even a year before you see the fruit of that labor. Far different from the NFL!
As a seventh round pick, there are no guarantees you make the team – especially when the team had a deep running back corps with Bettis, Parker, Haynes, and Staley there as well. What did you do to catch the coaches’ eyes and find a place on the roster?
First let me comment on the fact that, whether you’re the first pick or the last pick, it is an honor and a privilege to be drafted by any professional team. Its a credit to each player’s hard work and dedication and should not be taken lightly.
As a seventh round pick I was what some colleagues and I have referred to as being a “minimum wage” player. Simply identifying that my job is not a guarantee but i need to come each and everyday to work and earn my living. The best thing I can say I did was listen. The talent was already there, that is why they picked me, but it was my ability to be a smart and talented player that really helped me stick out.
As a practice squad player, what was your role on the team and was it frustrating not getting the playing time you would have liked?
There was a certain frustration to being on the practice squad. I started the year on the active roster and in week 4 was moved down for injuries at another position. There was frustration but the window of opportunity in the NFL is so short that you have to make the best of every opportunity. I just tried to get better every week as a player, I had the opportunity to go against first defense everyday and I wanted to take full advantage of not wasting time and reps.
Who on the Steelers team helped mentor you and help you adjust most to the NFL and the team culture? And what were some of the biggest things you learned from guys like Bettis, Parker and Staley?
I would say that Jerome was the one who really took a liking to me. We had some similarities that allowed us to find some common ground and build upon that (both being from Michigan and me being a big and him a bigger back with quick feet!). He just told me straight up that he had been in this league a long time and he had the knowledge of how to navigate it, all I had to do was listen. So I listened.
As you developed in your career and became the mentor to younger players (versus the one mentored), was it difficult to adjust to that role knowing some of these guys are out to take your job? And do you think that helped you appreciate more the help you received from those other players years before?
Whether you are mentor or mentee, someone is always trying to take your job. That’s part of the realities and parodies of the NFL. Getting 53 guys competing for the same jobs and still becoming a selfless team or teammate…it is one of the reasons it makes football such a unique sport. You hope your play is good enough to keep your job while at the same time doing like Jerome did, and investing the knowledge he had into me to help me be successful. And I did appreciate it because I have seen it where nobody will help anybody to try to secure their own jobs.
You were signed off of the practice squad by green Bay in 2005. Were you surprised and/or happy about that roster move?
Correct, Green Bay did sign me off of the Steelers practice squad. I honestly was torn, as I felt like Pittsburgh was becoming my home and that I had a place there. I go back to what I had said before, the window of opportunity is so short that its hard to pass up on promises in the future (as a “minimum wage” player).
I bounced the idea off of Jerome and Coach Cowher, both expressed their love for me being a part of the team but that the NFL is a business and regardless of what they wanted that I need to make the best decision for me and my future. And that was playing the last five games on the active roster in Green Bay and not on the Steelers practice squad.
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?
It was a unique group of leaders that isn’t typical I believe in the NFL. There was great veteran leadership at most all positions which allowed for us young guys to watch and learn how to be a pro. Offensively we had Jerome, Hines, Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca and Duce who really took leadership roles. Defensively we had James Farrier, Joey Porter, Kimo and DeShea Townsend.
So we had an extremely experienced group of leaders on our team who asserted themselves vocally and on the field.
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?
With so many veteran egos in that locker room it was like Real World Pittsburgh in there. That’s all I have to say!
You played for six teams over your five year career in the NFL. What kind of toll does that take on you mentally and do you think fans appreciate the struggles that many players go through to find career security?
There is a certain struggle that comes with being an NFL player, no ones story or path is the same. We all took our own unique way to get there. I think you just get used to that kind of pressure, its really part of the culture for players and coaches alike. I was fortunate to play three years in the same place so more than half of my career came with a small sense of security.
But it is always a grind and never easy, fans should always remember what players have had to give up and endure to get to where they are and not be so critical of what they do have once they’ve gotten there.
What were some of the biggest differences you found between Pittsburgh, Green Bay and the other organizations you played for, from your perspective?
Unfortunately I will have admit that Green Bay has the best fans in the NFL, but Steeler fans are a close second. There’s nothing better for a player to see and know that his city and community are supporting them even through years that don’t end in holding up the Lombardi Trophy. I will comment on the fact the Pittsburgh and Green Bay are both first class organizations and the fans should be proud to have them as their home team.