First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL life. What you’ve been doing since your time with the Steelers and NFL – especially as it relates to the football kicking camps?
Post NFL life has been interesting to say the least…i found myself depressed for nearly 18 months as I loved playing the game and missed it…after I finally snapped out of the “darkness,” I realized i had a degree from UNC in journalism…why not use it!!! I have not always made the best decisions in my life, as I admit I’m human…I helped so many people whom I crossed paths with and got bit by two of them in a very harsh way…”God forgive them” Ii say on a daily basis…
I have moved on to bigger and better things and have to once again resort back to working my way to the top, creating my own happiness, and praying for my family, which includes my parents, sister, grandmother, girlfriend, two beautiful daughters, and the pets! I have become closer to God in the last six weeks…wow what a smart decision that was…my whole outlook on life has changed…I struggle many times, but i also have realized that money does not solely create my happiness as I once thought…
I am on CBS Sports radio in Charlotte, NC…I have my own website, www.thejeffreedshow.com, which features my funny and sometimes serious podcast “Barely Controlled Radio”…I work with some local high school kickers and watch them succeed through their drive and extreme dedication to learning and mastering fundamentals and “the little things”…I am in the process of doing some radio in Myrtle Beach, SC…i’m working on dedicating lots of time to a charity of choice…hell, maybe I’ll kick a football one more time for someone…I haven’t lost it…and I’ll always give back to Steeler Nation and do as many appearances as possible…motivational speaking makes me “move”…those individuals/fans make me feel rather special!
I will give a special shoutout to Gene Muriaty, the man who taught me how to kick a football properly and the man i work for at National Kicking Service camps along the east coast.
What made you decide to sign with the Steelers as a free agent in 2002- did you have offers from other teams?
Two. As a free agent in 2002, I signed with the Steelers week 10 after being released by the saints in the preseason…I had eight tryouts leading up to the Pittsburgh tryout…I kicked extremely well except when I kicked for the Giants in front of the entire organization…they told me “thank you for coming, but you will never play in this league”…I told them “thank you for the opportunity…I’ll see you on the field”…Pittsburgh was my only choice that season, but THANK GOD for that…look at my colorful career!
What Steeler veterans helped mentor you as a young player – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
When I attended my first team practice with the Steelers, everyone was wondering who the hell I was…the first field goal period, I made every kick…they all changed their opinions rather quickly and made me feel at home…
I will tell you that Josh Miller, Tommy Maddox, Mike Schneck, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, Hines Ward, and Jerome Bettis were my closest buddies…every single one of them made me feel like I could do no wrong…obviously I had a lot to prove, but they put me at ease with their funny stories about kickers, confident personalities, and the “games” we played throughout practice…it was new to me and of course I was anxious and nervous, but those men are special and always will be!
Heinz Field is notoriously difficult ‘to kick in. How did you adjust to the conditions and what about your approach made you so effective there?
Heinz Field will always be one of the top five toughest stadiums to kick in…the turf can be slick at times…the wind is tough to figure out, not only game to game but kick to kick…it swirls and switches often…
Opposing kickers always praised me and literally “hated” kicking there…they couldn’t wait until that 60 minutes was over…that was my home field, so I embraced it…the fans kicked many field goals for me through their support, confidence, and loyalty…I would never coach a youngster to kick the way I kicked (fundamentally) on that field…home games and away games were night and day…my approach all the time was that I told myself to “be a hero”…any negative thoughts led to a missed kick!
How did you as a young player “on the bubble” deal with the pressure of making the squad?
The practice squad usually is not a factor for a placekicker or punter…if you don’t make the active roster, you are pretty much a free agent…I was signed on a Tuesday and played five days later on that following Sunday…that is a daring and nerve-racking thing, but it is such an awesome feeling…you have to be “game ready” all the time!
How much did humor play a part in that and on the team in general – can you offer some examples of the hijinks or funny occurrences?
Humor is major with specialists. Some guys were serious all the time in other positions, but the specialists I’ve always been around are “different” at times but man are they funny…there are numerous examples of this in my nine-year career…anything from creating our own language to creating nicknames for players and coaches (in which only we knew about, no one else) to telling funny and somewhat inappropriate jokes in between plays with the skill position players..
The Pittsburgh Steelers teams I played on were like a college locker room…egos were there, but we had a blast…hence, we won two Super Bowls.
How big of a focus were special teams under Cowher – how did you practice them on a weekly basis versus?
Cowher took special teams seriously, but Tomlin made them more of a focus…15 minutes a day were dedicated to special teams, but it was “balls to the wall”…this was no rest period…overall, Cowher was very easy to play for despite his sideline antics and “chin” at times…he is a great man…I’m blessed that he and Mr. Rooney gave me an initial opportunity…that’s where it all started.
As a special teams player, how did you handle the “down time”?
Believe it or not, a good bit of our down time, both between meetings and during practice, was spent working out…I wanted to break the mold of other players and fans saying “you’re just a kicker”…that can get to be annoying, But I accepted the fact that I was a kicker…I know we don’t “headbang” a whole lot, but the task at hand was never easy…
I know many people will not believe that because I joked around a lot, but honestly it is the truth…sometimes, we had to run routes as tight ends or receivers or be running backs for the scout team…that was comical!
How upset and surprised were you when you were released on 2010 by the team? How did they inform you!
I was extremely emotional upon my release from the Steelers in November of 2010…I’ll never forget that feeling…initially it was bittersweet, but I accepted the fact that the most storied franchise in history gave me a chance to play football at the highest level, so I better take the “bitter” out of “bitterness”…
I won’t get in to how it took place and how short of a conversation it was…all everyone needs to know is that it is a business…nine years and two Super Bowl rings are way more than 90 percent of the players can take credit for in that league.
Some fuss was made later in your career in Pittsburgh of your carefree persona and off- field incidents. In light of all that you read about now about various players’ off-field issues, how do you feel about how your incidents were handled by the team and media, especially as they compare to the more extreme incidents you read about today?
The bottom line about my off the field incidents is that Ii was in the wrong place at the wrong time twice…was I guilty of the accusations? Not necessarily…did I get punished? yes I did…people that really know me know what I have to offer to society and others…
On the field does not describe the true character of a person…however, it can bring out some great things and not so great things in an individual…football is a game though…life seems to be, but in general it is what you make of it…we can control a lot, not everything…
I have so much to offer as a person and learned from those mistakes…hitting a paper towel dispenser with the side of my fist which led to a plastic piece falling off is not national news…however, if you are a Pittsburgh Steeler with crazy hair and a “fun” personality, it can turn in to that…coming to the aid of a teammate in a nonviolent manner is also not national news…however, that was the second time MY name was in the picture, so it made it that way…
My parents were with me in both instances…obviously the time to act like a complete fool and get involved in shenanigans is not with mom and dad around…Ii learned from it…I’m guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time…my coaches and front office preached that to us numerous times in meetings…I was a victim…I will not comment on what Goodell is letting slip these days…it’s a “sad thing”!!!
What did the team and players say to you at the time? Did you feel supported?
The team, coaches, Colbert, and the Rooneys all supported me…they know what kind of man I am…they also know I “slipped up” and made a couple national mistakes that put them in the spotlight in a negative way…they didn’t ignore the issue…they couldn’t…as you can see, I have improved and am continuing to make smarter decisions as we speak.
What are your favorite memories playing in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh is a sports town, period…I wouldn’t trade my ten-year experience for anything in this world…I made so many connections, touched so many lives through charity, had my life touched by so many on and off the field, and I made a few important field goals in contributing to success for the Pittsburgh Steelers…
I’ll always be a Steeler…nothing can or will change that…I wish #3 was retired there, but unfortunately for me, there will be many, many more superb athletes that wear MY number…just a joke on the “MY’ part…I wish them the most success and pray for the safety of such a violent game…I will not fail to mention that I still have Penguins season tickets and catch Pirates games here and there at PNC Park in the summer time…I love you guys.
Any last thoughts for readers?
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Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: