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First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career and your new coaching job at Albany. What made you decide to become a coach?
It just seems like a natural progression to go from player to coach. Even though it has been a few years since I last played, I was just waiting for the right fit. When my buddy, Greg Gattuso, was announced as head coach, I knew this would be my golden opportunity to become a full time coach. Took all of three seconds for me to commit when Greg called.
What coaches and coaching lessons from your experiences do you fall back on now as a coach – and why?
I have had some great ones. Joe Moore at Pitt. Jim Ringo, a NFL HOF’er. Bad Rad, Dan Radakovich, the architect of the Steeler lines of the 70’s. Larry Beightol and Kent Stephenson, both long time NFL coaches. Tried to learn from all the coaches I had. Everybody does things a little different, but the end results seem to always be the same. I am no different. Take what I have learned and put my own little spin on how I want my point to come across to my players. Also learned from older teammates when I was just a rookie in the league.
How does coaching at the college level differ from that in the NFL, from your perspective, and how does your NFL experience help you when dealing with these younger players?
The biggest difference, for me, is I have to learn that colleges tend to defend the field rather than the offensive personnel in the huddle. When it comes to identifying defensive personnel, I am a little bass-akwards.
But, I am learning. As far as relating to my players, it helps having 16 years of credentials. My message to them, “would you rather following someone through a mine field that has read about it or whom has lived it?” I left the answer up to them.
You signed on with the Steelers in 1996 after playing for the Jets and Seahawks. What made you decide to sign with the Steelers in free agency – especially when they were deep at guard and center with Dawson, Strzelczyk, Myslinski and Wolford there?
It was a chance for me to play at home with a pretty good organization late in my career. I enjoyed the fact that I did not have to pack for training camp. It was great for my parents They only had to travel 4 miles instead of 400 miles to watch a game. Not too many people know, but Bill Cowher was originally a Beechview native. It is where I was raised. A little coincidental. The director of football operations, at the time, was my high school coach, Tom Donahoe. It was a chance to be back with him. I guess you could say it would be a complete circle.
Who were the players and coaches that really welcomed you to the team and helped you adjust to the Steelers, and how did they do so?
Jugs(Justin Strzelczyk), Jim Miller, Milo(Tom Myslinski), Dirt(Dermontti Dawson) as well as the Rooney’s, Wig(John Norwig) the head trainer and Rick Burkholder, the assistant trainer and Pitt grad, all made me feel welcomed and that I was one of them. First thing we did after practice, Jugs, Milo, Millsee, T-Zak(Mike Tomczak) and a few others was to go to a local establishment for wings and beer. A perfect fit.
The team at the time had a potent running game and dynamic quarterback in Kordell Stewart.
How did the diversity of a bruising back like Bettis, faster back like McAfee and a scrambling quarterback all affect how the offensive line? Was it more difficult for you having to block for so many different styles of players?
Blocking is blocking. We like to think our style of blocking enable the backs to create their own style running. we had a couple of motto’s to live by, “How the offensive line goes, is how the team goes!” And,”Offensive line, get none of the credit and all of the blame!” Think about it.
As a Pitt guy, how special was it returning home to Pittsburgh, and how much pressure did it add to you, playing “at home”?
It was great returning home for the twilight of my career. I always dreamed of wearing the black and gold and this was a chance for a grade school dream to come true. There really was no more pressure than normal to perform. If you don’t perform, at any time in your career, you don’t seem to be around much longer.
How difficult was it for you as a veteran lineman, mentoring younger players that you knew, to some degree, were candidates to take playing time and even a roster spot away from you?
As an older player, it was my duty, honor and privilege to mentor the younger players. It was and always will be about the team and what is best for the team. If it cost me a position on the roster, so be it. That is the nature of the game. Plus, when I was a rookie, the elder statesman of the O-Line for the New York Jets, Joe Fields, took me under his wing. It was my turn to pay back and pass on the tradition
What part did humor play on those Steelers teams in terms of keeping players loose? What were some of the funnier moments you remember and who were some of the funniest players on the team? Any examples?
Humor plays a major part in any locker room. To be able to make fun of and be made fun of by the guys you go to battle with, week in and week out, is a life learning experience. Everybody should experience a looker room mentality. People would not be so PC on every issue.
You retired after the ’99 season after an amazing sixteen years in the NFL. What prompted that decision for you and were you prepared for life after football? Why/why not?
After 16 season, it was just time. Like riding the Thunderbolt at Kennywood, you know when you get on the ride, that you will also be getting off as well. Same as an NFL,or any other career, you know one day the ride will be finished. That is why you enjoy every moment. Prepared in one aspect, my mind, but not prepared, on predicting what would happen in the future. I was still a young man, even after 16 season. Most of my living years were ahead. Like anything, you may have a plan, but life does not always follow your plan.
What are your thoughts about the way the game has changed today, and what would you tell younger players about how o prepare for life in the NFL after having played for an amazing sixteen seasons?
I guess I played at the perfect time for me. There was no free agency and that was not such of a bad thing. Teams tended to stay together. I felt honored that a team, the New York Jets, took a shot on me. That is where my alliance existed. I always loved and still do love Pittsburgh and their teams. Huge Pirates fan. Love the Penguins. I follow all the high schools from the W.P.I.A.L. and where the future stars may go. It was just a great experience for myself to go beyond the boundaries of the city of Pittsburgh and show a different part of the country how we are as Pittsburghers or “Yinzers.” It’s an experience I recommend highly!
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career. Tell us how you get started in your new career and why?
My current post NFL career is in the Market Research field creating, editing, and conducting political surveys. I got started in Market Research because of my desire
to interact with people and my passion for politics. Market Research allows me to effortlessly perform my duties and gather knowledge about a subject i care about.
Has your time in the NFL prepared you for your post-NFL life? Why/why not?
My time in the League definitely helped to prepare me for post NFL life. It allowed me the opportunity to practice how to function at a high level within a team setting, sacrifice personal gain for the unit and commit to something much bigger than myself.
The NFL also created a broader perspective of the discipline required and preparation needed to succeed at that level and i continue to live my life by these codes.
Market Research is similar in many ways because i ultimately have to perform well in a team setting, prepare myself mentally with the information and deliver a winner to the people or they would not be interested.
You were drafted by the Steelers in 1997. What were your thoughts on being drafted by the team then?
I signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 1997, after signing with the Buffalo Bills and NY Jets as a free agent in 1996. I was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 1995 draft and was a part of the Super Bowl team that lost to Dallas in SB XXX.
My decision to re sign with the Steelers was primarily based on how diligent Coach Cowher was to have back, Coach Zooks commitment to me as his guy on special teams returning kicks and punts, and the Steelers maintaining the same offense from my rookie season in 1995 and the same offense I ran in NY with Coach Earnhart and Neil O’Donnell with the Jets.
I was happy to get back with CJ and Yancey because they were the best teammates I’ve had in my entire NFL experience.
You came into the NFL from a somewhat smaller program – UNLV. What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL game and how did you work on that as a player?
Coming from UNLV and the Big West Conference wasn’t difficult for me as player mentally or physically. I felt really good about being in the organization with it’s tradition and history and knew I would do what I always did on the gridiron and that’s play with passion and speed. The biggest adjustment for me was the fact that I was a running back in high school and about 40% of the plays I ran in my senior year at UNLV were plays from the slot in which I took a lot of handoffs and caught a lot of short passes.
Upon arriving at my first mini camp I focused on the realization that I was now required to run precise routes from the X or Z position and catch passes from NFL quarterbacks with my hands. It took approximately half a season to really feel comfortable using my hands to catch passes and run crisp routes. It primarily came down to me rationalizing with myself on a daily basis. The impact of running routes against Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Deon Figures etc was making me an NFL receiver and one day it happened.
Who helped you adjust to the team – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
The entire receiver unit was the reason I felt so comfortable and confident. A player would be hard pressed to find a better group of Men than Charles Johnson, Andre
Hastings, Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Corey Holiday, Johnny Barnes. We did everything together and treated each other with respect. I learned a little bit from each one of those guys.
At 5’8″, you were an “undersized” player. How did that influence your approach to the game and how do you think you excelled most as a player?
As a smaller player I always felt as if I had the advantage because I was quicker and faster given my size, so I approached the game with the mindset to avoid being tackled or hit – no direct shots.
I felt like if linebackers and defensive backs couldn’t catch me, they couldn’t tackle me. I think I excelled most as a return guy. Returning kicks was my responsibility and gave me the opportunity to directly influence the flow of the game in an instant.
You excelled on special teams. What made you effective as a return man – what do you think makes a player exemplary on special teams and what is frustrating for you not getting more opportunities at the receiver position?
My ability to shift speeds effortlessly made me effective on special teams. To be a great special teams guy I believe you must be fearless, you almost have to not think rationally about anything and react to what develops before your eyes.
There was no frustration on lack of playing time at receiver. I always believed my time would come and when it did I needed to be the best I could be.
The ’97 season was the first with Kordell Stewart as the starting quarterback. How did you see the team adjusting to that change and how did the players and coaches handle the transition?
I think 10’s transition and the coaches faith in his abilities made for a positive outcome. The team was behind Kordell because he was confident and knew he wanted to be the QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers, so everyone follow his lead.
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?
Earl Holmes was by far the most candid, funny, happy, loosest individual on the team. It seemed like he would expend so much energy being comedian but he continued to play at a high level.
What are your thoughts on the way the game has changed today? Is it for the better or worse, and why?
I feel like the changes in today’s game slows the players down on a individual basis which creates doubt on the field. Player must be able to play at full speed to be effective and avoid injury. It is for the best in the Grand scheme of a players career to play this way for obvious concussion reasons.
What advice would you give to younger players today entering the NFL?
I would tell players coming into the NFL currently to enjoy every practice, every two-a-day, every meeting, and every game because one day you will wake up and it’s going to be over just when your mind is telling you that it’s not.
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days?
I’m a stock broker at Morgan Stanley – that’s my real job. I manage some active and retired coaches’ and players’ money, but that’s not the bulk of my business by any means, I’ve always been interested ins tocks and bonds, Wall Street….sop I made that move in 2009.
And of course, you’re a coach as well. Can you let readers know how you got involved in coaching?
It was an easy fit. I retired in ’91 and moved back to my hometown. My real good friend was the head coach of a fifth and sixth grade team there so I was hired as the offensive and defensive coordinator. When he left, I took over as the head coach in 2001 after a year as the assistant coach. I coached for a couple more years at a high school where I used to play, but then left to do color commentary for the Colts. There was too much travel – it was too hard to coach doing that.
Then this job opened up – for the first time in thirty-one years at St. Xavier High – a very large Catholic high school here. We have over three-hundred players – over 20% of the school plays
How does having played hurt and help you now as a coach?
There are lots of parents who are very invested in their kids. So dealing with the parents can be a negative. You can’t just throw the kids in the pool and see who swims the fastest, or have them get on the mat and see who beats who, like in wrestling. It’s all very subjective as a football coach, and a lot of the parents don’t like those answers.
What coaches and coaching experiences from the NFL have you taken with you now as a coach?
I took a little from everyone. Coach Levy and Coach Cowher were night and day – had different styles. And Marchibroda was in the middle. Marv never cussed – he let his coaches coach. He always had lots of stories and was like a father-figure.
Coach Cowher was fiery. He wasn’t fun to work for as a coach but a great guy to play for. Marchibroda wore his heart on his sleeve.
You can’t be an actor as a coach. You have to have a reason to rip a player or praise them. Kids are too smart – they see right through you. You have to be true to your personality. When I’m upset, I’m upset. That was one thing about Cowher – he often got angry for the cameras, which isn’t good.
So, in ’96, you signed with the Steelers in free agency. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh?
It was an easy call. I was looking at that point to win – winning had everything to do with my decision. It wasn’t about money for me – the money was going to come. Pittsburgh gave ne the best chance to win. I turned down better offers from teams that weren’t as ready – that weren’t ready to win.
Who helped welcome you to the team and city – and how so?
From the beginning I bonded with Coach Cowher actually.. I played next to his college roommate in Buffalo and had a good feel for who he was. I was older so we had a good relationship.
Dermontti Dawson was so freakishly talented and the nicest guy. John Jackson was from Eastern Kentucky – so I had a lot in common with him. It’s easy as an offensive lineman to bind with each other. We’re not worried about getting the ball of making plays. We just want to be invisible and work well together.
Who were the leaders on the team at the time, and how did they do so?
Dawson was the leader on offense. Leaders have to be vocal at times. But not all the time. They need to lead by example and Dawson challenged everyone to work as hard as he did.
Lloyd was the leader on defense, then Kirkland took over. Lake and Woodson were potential Hall of Famers then – just great guys across the board.
Tell us a bit how humor played a part in the locker rooms you were in – and with whom?
Every locker room then had the phone jokes – shaving cream in the locker room phones so players would take calls and get shaving cream on them. Now all the phones are on their waists – I doubt the locker rooms even have phones now. I do remember one time in Buffalo, we stayed in a hotel during mini-camp and there was a gun and firearms show near us. I bought a pair of handcuffs and gave them to the weight coach and told them they were fakes. He put them on and actually cuffed himself. He was stuck there all day!
Jerry O (Olsavsky) – he was always late. His locker was next to mine. If the game started at 1:00, you were supposed to be there at 11:00 and on the field at 12:00. Jerry kind of did his own thing. He’d show up at 12:10 and didn’t tape up – would just get to the field at 12:15. He lived close by and I guess figured he could just drive in quickly and get started.
You retired in ’98. How hard was that for you and why did you do so?
In ’98 Cowher made me an offer to come back. I tore my pec muscle at the end of the season though and decided not to have surgery to fix it. If you’re not going to be a power lifter or play again you didn’t need the surgery. I think my passion and love for the game was tested at that point. When you can’t learn anything more about the profession and improve, it’s easier to walk away.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I loved living in Pittsburgh – I lived in Wexford and loved coming downtown. The fans were diehard but not so over the top that they made you feel uncomfortable, which could be the case in some cities. They were nice and respectful. This also was before the days of camera phones too.
I enjoyed playing for Bill Cowher. He had a top notch staff and we were real close. The play0off lose to Denver at home was tough. We were so close – and the team had so many class acts.
First, can you let readers know what you’ve been doing since your time in the NFL -how you got started in this venture and how your time in the NFL helped you?
Shortly after my athletic career ended I got involved in the office equipment industry selling printing and copying technology for a local company, Allegheny Business Machines. ABM was purchased by IKON Office Solutions of which Ricoh bought in 2008. I’m currently an executive with Ricoh responsible for the Northeast Region and approximately $1.1b in revenue.
You also do a lot of charity work in the Pittsburgh area- with a big focus on helping homeless children. What caused you to focus on this issue and how can readers help?
Most of the charitable work I’ve engaged in has been centered around children as I’m a firm believer that each child deserves a chance to pursue their dreams. I’ve been involved with DePaul Institute, St. Anthony’s School Programs, as well as the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. Donations to these worthwhile causes are critical to the ongoing funding necessary to support the programs and progress of the children.
After playing for Pitt, you joined the Steelers in 1981. How hard was it to try to make that Steelers squad – especially with such a deep linebacker corps there and the pressure of being a local guy- and what about you do you think caught the coaching staff’s attention?
Every level of athletic progression becomes more competitive and challenging. To be part of the Steeler organization is any local kids dream. Having the benefit of playing on a nationally ranked college team with great players helped with the attentiveness of the NFL. At the time I was one of the larger linebackers coming out of college at 245lbs. I had great strength and ran a 4.7.
As a rookie, who helped mentor you most and helped you adjust to the Steelers- both on and off the field – and how did they do so?
I was fortunate to have Lambert take an interest in helping me and tutoring me through the defensive schemes and responsibilities. Off the field my family was always there as we lived locally in the community of Westview.
How competitive and helpful to you were the linebackers as a unit and who was the leader of that group then?
The group was extremely competitive as most of the veterans had several Super Bowl rings. Lambert was definitely the leader of the group as he was in the prime of his career and one of the top defensive players in the league.
You tore your achilles twice in two seasons. But instead of sulking, you actually started getting involved in helping the team in its scouting processes. How did that come about and what did you learn about the Steelers approach and Dick Haley that you think was unique and made them so successful?
After the second injury I was not able to resume playing as I was not going to receive clearance from the team doctor. As a result I welcomed the opportunity to join Art Rooney Jr’s scouting team and assist in the college evaluation group. The Steeler organization always focused on character, athleticism, and organizational fit. Always looked for talent that would fit the culture and had great athleticism.
Did you consider staying with the scouting profession- why/why not?
I did consider for a short period of time however I wanted to try my hand at business especially in the selling profession. At the time I wanted to get away from sports and transition into corporate America. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the scouting department especially for the best team in the sport.
You were there during the strike season of 1982. How did the team handle the strike from your perspective and how did it effect your career?
Not sure it really had an impact on my career as the achilles injury was the turning point in not being able to continue.
Do you like the direction of the NFL these days- why/why not – and what advice would you give to players entering the NFL now?
The NFL game has really changed dramatically over the years and today’s game is much different than when I played. Free agency has forever changed the game and the money involved today is out of this world. There’s not a lot of loyalty between team and player and player and team. Years ago teams would draft players and invest several years in their development. Today, you better contribute immediately or you won’t be around long. The advice I suggest to all athletes is that you’re only one injury of not playing so make sure you’re diversified and have alternative options. Especially with your education.
Any last thoughts for readers?
It was a great honor and privilege to be part of the Steeler organization as it remains one of the premiere sports organizations in the world.
First, can you let readers know about the 2nd and 7 Foundation – how it got started and what your role is with the organization?
Ryan Miller, a former teammate at Ohio State came up with the idea as a way to give back after our time together at school. My involvement was very high until recently when I began coaching.
Why did you choose to align yourself with this particular cause, and how can readers help support the organization?
We were very familiar with the right to read week after participating in it through Ohio State as players and we were comfortable going into second grade classrooms with books. We eventually decided to write out own series of books to read and give to each child. People can contribute online at secondandseven.com, or just check out the website and spread the word.
You’re now the Linebacker Coach for the Houston Texans after having coached at your alma mater, Ohio State. What about coaching do you enjoy and what coaching lessons from your time in the NFL do you find yourself falling back on most as a coach, and why?
Coaching is about being a great teacher. If I can find ways to connect to my players, they have the ability to be successful. If they have success on the field, I am a good teacher. If they struggle, I am a bad coach. You see what you coach.
A defensive lineman in college, you were drafted by the Steelers in the third round in ’97 to be a 3-4 OLB. With players like Lloyd, Gildon, Emmons, and Conley already there, were you worried about your ability to break into the lineup as you learned the OLB position in the NFL, and how difficult was that learning process for you?
The process was difficult, but I never worried about failure. I concentrated on finding ways to add value to the team. I tried to make the team feel like they needed me to in order to be successful.
Who were the players on the team that helped mentor you as a younger player and helped you make that adjust to linebacker, and how did they do so? Any examples?
There were many great veterans in that Steeeler locker room, but some that stood out where Mark Bruener, Carnell Lake, “Money Dawson”, Will Woolford, Levone Kirkland, Greg Lloyd…. They provided not only support in the locker room but also an example as to how to prepare and play like a professional 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?
Jerome Bettis and Earl Holmes were two players that were able to keep the mood light in the locker room, but also had the ability to focus and play at a very high-level while we were in Pittsburgh together
After four seasons in Pittsburgh, you moved on to play for New England. What drove that decision for you and how difficult was it for you to make?
The decision to leave Pittsburgh was based solely on opportunity. The Patriots could provide me an opportunity to start and contribute on an every down basis and I knew what my role was going to be in Pittsburgh.
The decision was not very difficult as I knew I wanted more to my career than being a back up in the special-teams player.
You had a fourteen-year career as a player in the NFL. What do you attribute that longevity too and are you a proponent of the way the NFL over the past few season has changed the way the game is being played? Do you think that will help players extend their careers as well?
Longevity in the National Football League is attributed to a few things: one is ability; two is productivity; three is being prepared… and lastly I think there’s a little luck involved. I like to think I had all four.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would ask your readers to support our foundation by Not only visiting the secondandseven.com<http://secondandseven.com> website but also by helping us promote literacy throughout their community and encouraging kids to read and comprehend.
First, can you let readers know what the Right At Home business- how you got started and what your role is there?
Right At Home, is locally owned Franchise, of Right At Home Inc, Our office is located in the North Dallas Metroplex which assists seniors and disabled adults, who need further care in their home. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those we serve.
My grandmother played a influential role in my life, and in her final years I hired a caregiver to assist her with her daily needs. After she passed, I decided I wanted to play a role in my local community in which I grew up and played football, and bring a sense of peace and joy, to those in need like my grandmother.
Some of the largest fan bases for football are seniors. In this past year rehabbing, I have frequently played a role volunteering in nursing homes, and senior communities to do football trivia, and teach healthy living practices. I assist with the day-to-day operations while also training for football.
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?
I learned so much from Coach John Mitchell, that the game was a business, and it about producing and picking the right people to accomplish your goals. His approach I have taken with me to every team and this business.
My employees are my team, and we have to give great service everyday, that sense of urgency that Coach John Mitchell instilled in me, I practice at Right at Home and on the field. Our office motto, on every wall reads, Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) – we believe in it and so do our employees. We are the Right People, doing the right things, for the right reasons.
You were drafted by the Steelers in round four in 2007. Were you surprised to be drafted by Pittsburgh and how competitive was that defensive line corps with the likes of Aaron Smith, Nick Eason, Casey Hampton, Travis Kirschke, to name a few…?
I wasn’t surprised to be drafted, I worked very hard to get to that point. Working with the D-Line with such great guys they emphasized the importance of having a great work ethic – and yes it was very competitive, and i loved that.
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?
All the guys on the D-line were influential with their daily inputs about how to approach the game, and how to transition from college to the NFL. These daily inputs from the d-line, I would say were like a impromptu class lesson, where I learned how to become a man, and to master the 3-4 defense. Each person gave their life lessons, and real experiences which set the picture as great mentors for a new player.
How difficult was it for you to adjust to the 3-4 defense? Did you feel it suited your skill set and was it frustrating adapting to that defense, or did you feel comfortable doing so?
The 3-4 defense, was something I hadn’t done before in college but I knew with practice and repetition, it would no longer be a challenge. The 3-4 was suited for my body type, skill set, and my physicality upfront. I enhanced my skills of the 3-4 under my tenure with the Denver Broncos.
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?
Chris Hoke, would do his Hoke dance before practice and Casey Hampton, was a guy with a great sense of humor about life and his teammates.
In 2008 you were released and ended up in Denver where you played for four years. Was the release a surprise to you and was it frustrating, or did you feel it was better for you even then?
No, it wasn’t a surprise. l always remembered the last words Coach Mike Tomlin stated, that he would see me again. He did, after my team, (Broncos) beat them in the regular season, knocking them out of the playoffs.
Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against, both on and off the field, and what made them so. Any examples?
The NFL is filled with good offensive linemen, some you can have your way with, and some you can have a hard time with. I cant remember them all but Bobby Williams,Marshal Yanda from the Baltimore Ravens and Nick Hardwick from the Chargers, were great offensive lineman. I am a firm believer in self, no one off the field intimidates me.
What advice would you give younger players today coming into the NFL with the same sort of skillsets you came into the league with?
I would tell them to practice their craft everyday, never get comfortable,
Any last thoughts for readers?
In life you learn more from your failures than your success. My time in Pittsburgh was a failure for me , but it propelled me to be a better player, and a better man from the lessons learned. You can use that in any course of life.
First, can you let readers know about Players Trust – what it is, and what you do for the program as Program Manager?
The Trust is an organization committed to the overall health and well- being of all former players. With customized gameplans (goals and objectives), The Trust meets each former player where he is in his transition. In other words, we understand that the needs and interest of each player is unique and, as such, the approach to second career success is individualized. Through partnerships we provide access to career, medical, nutrition, entrepreneurial and continuing education services — all benefits players earned.
How did you get involved with the program and what about your experiences playing football helped prepare you for this?
I discovered the job posting on the NFLPA Job Opportunities Board. After reading the qualifications, I was convinced that my background and experience favored success in the position. More specifically, as it relates to the question, my experience as a player helped prepare me to serve former players as they embark on their journey toward second career success. When assisting players in their transition from the NFL, I often draw upon my attempts to redefine my sense of purpose, direction, and motivation during this trying period of my life. The prospective afforded by my experiences promotes an empathetic, non-judgmental, and strengths based approach to servicing players.
How can fans get involved with Players Trust?
Fans can like us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
You signed with the Steelers in 2004 as an undrafted free agent in 2004. What made you decide to sign on with the Steelers especially when they were so deep at receiver with Ward, Randle El, Washington, Mays, and Wilson?
I made the decision to sign with the Steelers because it is where I felt I would be given the best opportunity to prove my skills. Despite the enormity of talent at the receiver position, I felt I could be a dynamic addition to the pack.
How competitive were the receivers with one another for passes and playing time and how did they help you as young player learning the game?
To be a Steeler you have no option other than to compete at a high level. The vets were extremely helpful in my effort to learn the game. I received tutelage from both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If they think you can play, they assist you in your effort to be a good player.
Who helped mentor you most as a rookie and helped you to adjust to life as a Steeler and as a resident of the city? How did they do so?
From what I can recall, Randal El was most helpful on the field as we had a similar style of play. That is not to say that Hines and the others did not do so as well. Charlie Batch and Mike Logan were most helpful in helping me adjust to the city. They provided advice regarding where to go for necessities and the best places to take my family. I actually lived a block from Mike in the Hill District. The assistance that was provided by the vets is much appreciated.
2004 was Roethlisberger’s first season. How did his arrival impact the team from your perspective – how did the veteran quarterbacks and receivers adjust to a first round quarterback entering the picture?
Ben seemed to provide a breath of fresh air. His unwavering enthusiasm was contagious and his energy provided a spark. After Ben proved he could play, the adjustment by the vets is best described as fluid. Simply put, the Steelers adjust well to any player that can get the job done and it was more than evident that Ben was one of those players.
Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against both in practice and on game days? What made them so?
Well, the receivers were light on hits during practice, so, there was very little to be afraid of. Unfortunately, my injuries kept me from competing against the games most feared defenders. There was a time I had to block Joey Porter coming off the end in practice and I recall a coach saying “die with dignity”. Joey took it light and I survived.
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?
Too many of the jokes made in the locker room need context to repeat. This is not to say that we were brutal or politically incorrect. I’ll just say that we were a team that enjoyed one another and it was like family.
How difficult was it for you leaving the Steelers and moving on to play for Arizona. And what were the major differences between those two teams and organizations, from your perspective?
It was one the most difficult transitions in my life. While it is a privilege to be a part of any NFL team, to be a Steeler is mythical. Playing for such a historical winner and associating myself with the greatness of past and present Steelers was an honor. I only wish that I was smarter about how I handled my injuries.
Injuries had an impact on your time in Pittsburgh. What advice would you give younger players today knowing a career can end on one play?
If you’re hurt, say you’re hurt. If your team asks you to go on the injury list, do so. And, if your team recommends you take an exit physical, do so. There is no positive outcome to being dishonest about injuries.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I thank those that created a Zamir Cobb jersey during training camp when I was just a rookie free agent trying to make the team. I thank the Steelers for making every attempt to make me feel a part of the team as I struggled through injuries. I don’t know of a nation that is as strong, vast, and committed as Steeler nation. Go Steelers!