First, can you let readers know about your training work with Makeplays – what you are doing, how you got started and where you want to go from here?
I started out there as a player – me, McNabb, Charles Johnson and other guys trained there together, When I retired I’d still go work out there and talked to those guys a lot. I’d give other guys pointers and they saw I knew what I was doing. That I knew what it took to make it – I knew the real life picture of the NFL.
So I started working there. I love being able to give back – to help guys prepare and get the opportunity to play in the NFL like I had – to be succesful and realize thier dreams.
How much of the focus is on combine preparedness versus training for the NFL game – and do you train more on the physical or mental aspects of the game?
We train on both. We do a good job of breaking it up. We have strentgh training and training for good technique for players to test wel in the combine. We also have field skills and teach them time management. If you have little time – do you spend it on lifting or practicing your receiving and route skills. We teach them how to balance both.
A large part of the game is mental. We help train them by showing them how to be prepared. If we have a practice at 9:00 – don’t show up at 9:00. That means you’re late. 8:45 is on time! And bring the proper equipment – know what you have to do.
I understand you also have a passion for dog training as well. How did that come about – and what’s easier to train, a dog or a college wide receiver?
Ha! There are tons of similarities.Talk about drive. Dogs and people both have drive. Sometimes people see a dog that doesn’t move around a lot and say it’s a good dog – but that dog is just often times lazy. If a dog is bouncing off the walls he’s not bad – he just doesn’t know how to meet your expectations.
For example, some people give their dogs rawhide bones then are surprised when the dog chews their leather shoes! The expectations aren’t clear.
Well, people are the same way. If a player isn’t clear about what’s expected of them – if they aren’t prepared – they won’t get it right either. Players need to understand what’s expected of them.
You played with the Steelers for six years – what are some of your greatest memories over those six seasons and what would surprise fans most about those teams?
Being in the Super Bowl was the biggest thing. But I remember the fans – they supported us in good and bad times. I’m here in Arizona now and see Steelers stuff all the time. The fan are everywhere and I always remember that.
You had a big game in that Super Bowl – over 100 yards receiving. How did you manage to have such a big game on such a big stage?
Well, there are few super athletes in the NFL – guys like Adrian Petersen, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. All the others are really close in ability and athleticism. The rest is about being prepared and being in the right place in the right system.
Look at New England. All those guys that play in the slot posiiton do well. Welker, Troy Brown… I’m not saying those guys weren’t good, but the scheme worked because they put them in the right place. They succeed because they are prepared and because of the scheme.
For me in the Super Bowl, I was just doing what I always did. It just turned out to be my day because the opportunities were there.
Oh – and I was a good reciever too (laughing)!
Who mentored you as a rookie?
Rod Woodson helped me a lot – he and I had the same agent. Being from Atlanta, I had worked out a ot before the draft with Sterling Sharpe, Andre Rison, Richard Dent, and Drew Hill. I watched those guys and learned a lot from them.
Once I was drafted, me, Ernie Mills, Yancey Thigpen and Charles Johnson were all close – we all worked well together.
Were the four of you competitive?
Oh yeah – we were very competitive. We all wanted the ball. We ran a lot of four wide receiver sets and all looked for the ball. That just made us a good group!
What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL?
All the people say it’s the speed of the game. But the caliber of people you play in college – it’s that too. In college you may go up against a couple – a few – good matchups. The rest of the players just weren’t as great athletes.
In the NFL, these were all the stars of their college teams, you know? The level of competition never goes down – it never goes away.
After four years, you went and played for the Saints. What happened there?
I never wanted to leave. They just didn’t want me back for some reason. I had no issues with the coaches and no off-field issues.
It’s like that. You can’t take it personally. They are in the market to win games. But I did want to go back. No one ever wants to leave Pittsburgh – there are no Carson Palmers in Pittsburgh…
Did you get along with your position coaches?
Bob Harrison was my college wide receiver coach through my sophomore year. He was the reason I was drafted by the Steelers.
Anything else to say to readers?
The group of players I played with in Pittsburgh were more close-knit than anywhere else I ever played. Other teams were not nearly as tight.
I still laugh with Hines Ward. Stay in Pittsburgh I tell him, as long as you can!
Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: