First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL life. What you’ve been doing since your time with the Steelers and how your pet tortoise is doing!
First of all Buck50 is great. He is growing and getting pretty big. Since leaving the game I have been pursuing other business ventures. My art is doing extremely well as is my salsa company AngryMan Salsa. We just sold our 1000th jar a few weeks ago and we are on track for big things this upcoming year. Really I’ve just been doing whatever I feel like will make me happy.
You were a seventh round pick of the Steelers in ’11- certainly no guarantees to make the team. Were you surprised to be drafted by the Steelers – and what about your rookie performance helped you earn a spot – what caught the coaching staff’s eye and what was the biggest adjustment you had to make to make the team?
I don’t think success should ever be a surprise, if that is the case that means that you didn’t actually work that hard to get it. Coming into my rookie year I was well prepared for what was going to be expected of me. Playing for the Steelers was a great experience that I will never forget that’s for sure. I think that what caught the coaches eye was my “willingness” to compete, and in all reality I think that if someone is truly willing to compete they will be successful at just about anything they choose.
In short time you grew a bit of a fan following in Pittsburgh- with your blog and candid nature. What about your approach to life and the game makes you unique, do you feel, and attracted that following?
I definitely think that I kind of broke the mold of the average football player, and I find that disconcerting for two reasons. The first reason is that there are plenty of athletes that are interesting people and passionate about different things. Unfortunately those don’t get as much attention as when someone gets arrested or something like that. I do think that the fanbase embraces that I was the underdog and an interesting one at that, but at the end of the day being interesting doesn’t win football games so things like that disappear as quickly as they appear. I think the Steelers’ fanbase is fantastic and I’m grateful for the fans that still keep up with what I’m doing and are simply supportive of me as a person even though I am no longer a football player.
What veterans helped mentor you as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
It would be hard to put a finger on any single individual. Coming into the league I would say I was a bit more responsible and mature than most rookies. It wasn’t like I was the kid who needed to be babysat. However, all of the veteran guys did a great job of making all of the rookies feel welcome and were always quick to help in any way that they could. I made a lot of friends when I played and to this day I still stay in contact with a lot of the guys. They are all great men.
How did you as a rookie “on the bubble” deal with the pressure of making the squad? How much did humor play a part in that-any examples?
Honestly I didn’t really care if I made the team or not. My mentality has and will always be this. Control what I can and not worry or even waste energy thinking about the things that I can’t. All I could ever control while playing was my attitude and effort and I was always proud of how I approached those two things. I always knew that I would be more than ok without the game so the idea of having the game taken away was never something that made me fearful or put pressure on me. I had three goals coming into the NFL. Pay off a car, pay off a house, and save the rest to allow me to do whatever I want and not have to have financial strain. In my eyes if I did those things then I was a successful NFL player, and I managed to do all three.
You grew up and dealt with both dyslexia and ADHD. How did you take these issues and make them more assets in your development as a person versus obstacles – and how difficult was that for you?
I don’t think that either is a bad thing. My dyslexia forced me to work harder than everyone else and my ADHD is the engine that runs my creativity. In my eyes neither is bad. Honestly they are kind of like superpowers if they are truly embraced and used correctly.
How competitive was the running back corps – with Moore, Mendenhall, you, Dwyer all there. How did you all get along and how hard was it vying for playing time?
I am still close Dwyer and Rashard. They are both good men. The NFL is just competitive no matter what position you play and if you don’t embrace that then you have no business being there. But in all reality the business world is even more competitive and that’s why I enjoy what I am doing now so much more. Football is an amazing game but the truth is that hard work, honesty, and all those other things that you are taught to live by don’t always pay off when someone is simply better than you athletically. But in the real world of business all of those things apply. Hard work pays off. Honesty is rewarded. And simply put being successful is not hard if you are willing to just out work other people.
You’re a self-professed artist and “creative type” – painter and photographer – who likes a good intellectual debate. Do you think there’s discrimination in a sense by players and fans against such a personality type in the NFL? Is it possible to be both NFL tough and creative/insightful? How did you manage that?
I never thought it was hard to do both but there is definitely a double standard. To be quite honest fans don’t want to hear what players actual opinions are. I think most people can agree with that. That’s why you always see opinions of players being ridiculed and in some ways punished. The allegiance of fans to teams can sometimes blind them to the fact that everyone is just a person. Just a normal human being that happens to have a valuable skill. No better than anyone who doesn’t play in the NFL. I never liked that about football. Not just in the NFL but in college and high school as well. I always wanted to just be seen as a regular guy, because in all honesty that is all anyone is.
You found early success in your rookie season before tearing your ACL and being placed on IR. How difficult was that for you and what did the coaches tell you at the time?
The truth is this. Life happens to people. Good and bad. I have seen in my own life over and over again that the situations that I see as bad at the time many times bloom the most beautiful things. The ACL situation was one of those. Because I tore my ACL I began to paint and found a career that will last me way longer than football ever could. If I could go back and not tear my ACL and end up making five pro bowls or win a Super Bowl, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what I get to do at this moment in time. No amount of money or fame is worth more to me than being able to have the ability to live out my passion and do that on my own terms.
You were released by Pittsburgh in 2012. Were you surprised and what prompted that release?
I wasn’t surprised at all. It was a business move and as a business minded person it was easy to understand that. At the end of the day I didn’t do enough on the field to validate me being on the roster and I am totally at peace with that, because I handled the two things that only I can. I always had a great attitude towards my teammates, coaches, and the game, and I always gave my best effort. I think in life if you are able to control those things and do them well then you are successful in my eyes.
What are your favorite memories playing in Pittsburgh?
Hanging out with my teammates outside of work.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Thanks for the continued support. Buy salsa. Buy art. Go Steelers.
Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: