Richard Huntley, Steelers Running Back, 1998-2000
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career. Tell us how you get started and why?
Well, since I left football I got remarried and had two kids – two little girls. So, I’m taking care f my family.
I started coaching high school football – that was big for me, getting back to doing what I did for most of my life – football. I like teaching kids – showing them how to take advantage of opportunities -that all you want is possible. I’m living proof.
I’m also doing a lot of personal training here as well in the Charlotte area. That keeps me real busy too so now I have to decide whether I want to do that more or stay in coaching. I love working with the kids though so I probably will look to keep coaching.
What coaches and coaching lessons do you find yourself falling back on now as a coach?
On of my big things was to always be straight up with the kids. To not beat around the bush. Bill Cowher never did that either. He always told you straight up exactly the way it was. I am the same way. You have to be you as a coach. Be direct. Just like Bill – in Pittsburgh there were no half ways. He’d tell you exactly the way it is and the way it should be done. Its the same structure I have with the kids in high school. It’s a bit different since they are kids, but they know once I give it to them straight. It makes it easier for them.
In ’98, you came to the Steelers after a brief stint in Atlanta. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh, and what did you think your role would be there?
I had no clue about the other running backs on the team then. I had no clue who was there. I was just looking for a job. Pittsburgh was one of the terms that wanted to draft me in ’96 but they traded for Bettis instead, and once that happened they went for offensive linemen in the draft. I just wanted to play football. I had visits set up with Baltimore, the Redskins and Pittsburgh. I worked out for Pittsburgh first and never made it to Baltimore. I knew about the tradition but didn’t honestly care who I played for. But I got there and said these people here love football. It was just like college again where everyone loved their team. That’s why I loved it there. Atlanta….they just didn’t care for football as much there.
There was a very deep backfield then – with Bettis, McAfee, Fuamatu-Ma’afala,…how did everyone get along and handle the competition for playing time- and did any of those guys help mentor you?
We realized there was only one football but several guys that wanted it. As a group, we knew that if you got a chance you better make it happen. We never looked at it as a competition collectively. Jerome got his 20-25 carries and the rest of us had eight-to-ten carries. We knew that if we didn’t make the best of those they’d go to elsewhere. So we were competitive, but in a good way.
Who helped mentor you both on the field and off the field when you got to Pittsburgh?
No one really helped mentor me on the field – we all just worked together and learned from each other. I never liked Jerome – and he didn’t like me. He wrote about me and faking his injury because of me in his book which was BS. I threatened Jerome – I could do things that he couldn’t and he didn’t like that. So he and I, we never got along.
For off the field, when I left Atlanta, I saw the different things people were doing outside of football. What guys were doing in there break time. I looked aro0und. I did the same thing in Pittsburgh – saw what players were doing in their down time. They’d play games, read books and newspapers… So I started talking to Dermontti Dawson and Mike Tomczak. They were ready to leave the game and we talked about what they were going to do after football. The young guys don’t think about that. I talked to Dermontti a lot about that – I wanted to be in their situation financially and emotionally. I didn’t want to fall into it all being just about football.
One guy I talked to a lot also in Atlanta was Craig Heyward. We’d talk in the sauna about football. I was from a small college and was superstar there. I didn’t know about going to the NFL and being just a guy. Craig would tell me that they’d cut me! I didn’t understand that. He educated me that they didn’t care about you personally. I didn’t understand that until he sat me down and schooled me. Then I saw it around me – four or five guys that were next to me were out. Then I knew it was a what have you done for me lately business. There was no other way.
What were the major differences you found between the Steelers organizations and the others you played for – Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, etc…
The biggest difference was the people in Pittsburgh. They make you love football. Going to Carolina was a big mistake. I felt like my career was at a high in Pittsburgh. Then it went to a low. I was confused about my place in the game then I went to Pittsburgh and I knew what my place and role was. When I went to Carolina I had expectations but never got the chance to fulfill them. I never got an opportunity. The coaching staff there didn’t communicate. The head coach didn’t communicate well with players. In Pittsburgh you knew what Bill was thinking because he’d come right at you and tell you! I knew my role there.
In Carolina I wanted to escalate my career. I was projected to be a starter but didn’t get to play. They never gave me a reason- never gave me an answer when I asked them. That’s when I started hating football and was ready to call it quits.
Buffalo was the total opposite again. The organization and the people loved football. It made me want to play and work harder. I’d go all out for them. But I was traded to Detroit – another organization that didn’t care about winning – they just cared about getting people in the stands.
Tee Martin in an interview with him (https://pittsburghsportsdailybulletin.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/tee-martin-steelers-quarterback-2000-2001 /) said you were one of the funnier guys on the team. 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?
I went there to play football, but for me, sports was also about making friends and relationships with teammates. I like to laugh and have a good time with teammates. I grew up in the country – I knew everyone there. We had a good time with and we had each others’ backs. In the NFL that changes, but my personality, I still wanted that. Me and FU (Fuamatu-Ma’afala), we still talk two-three times a month. He’s a great guy and we’re good friends.
When you have a bunch of men together, a half of a year or more – more time then they spend with their families 0- you pull pranks and jokes. On a daily basis, we pull jokes – pranks, hiding stuff from each other, taking someone’s car, messing with rookies….It wasn’t any one thing and it never went too far. It was all just for fun….
What are your favorite moments as a Steeler?
In Pittsburgh, I enjoyed my three-four years. It was a learning experience. I got an opportunity to play the game and show people I could play. I got a chance to do it. There was nothing negative – or even if something negative happened we were positive about it. I hated it when I left – I would have taken a pay cut then to have been released. But I was released because of the salary cap. They kept Jerome and gave him a big salary so there wasn’t room left in the cap
Any last thoughts for readers?
Take advantage of every opportunity. In Pittsburgh I got a chance and tried to make the best of every situation I had. I knew what I was there for. Now I get to do what I do and give back in the same manner ion which I was given.