First, can you let us know how it’s going -how are you keeping up with the craziness so far?
It definitely has been crazy. I watched the draft every round, and was nervous going into it. I was disappointed not getting drafted but I’m happy with the chance. I wish I heard my name called on draft day but I know hundreds that play in college never even get the chance to play at all in the NFL.
Why choose Pittsburgh ad an undrafted free agent?
It is a great organization. The Pittsburgh fans are diehard fans. I played for Villanova – in Philly – and saw it isn’t a bad state to live in! I mean, it’s not Florida, but still… I also played in Pittsburgh my Junior year and liked the field. It’s a grass field and I like playing on grass – I play faster on grass.
First, tell me why you chose to sign with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent?
Well, the team showed me some love before the draft. Joey Porter liked me and I think he probably lobbied for me in the meeting room. The system is perfect for me. Playing in the 3-4 like I did in college.
Anything you need to work on most coming in to the NFL?
I have the versatility – I stood up as a pass rusher and dropped back a little in college. But I will have to work on my drops more and on man coverage, I was more of a pass rusher in college.
Donnie Shell: “I was not drafted in 1974 but I received three opportunities to sign as an undrafted free agent. The opportunities were with the Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers. I had kind of made up my mind to sign with the Denver Broncos because they signed my former South Carolina State teammate Barney Chavous in 1973. But after consulting with my college coach Willie Jeffries, I signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and you know the rest of the story. Young African American men need someone they can trust when they are making difficult decisions and Coach Jeffries was there for me.”
Chris Hoke: “The stress is part of the reason I may not miss it as much as I think. The stress was always there. I was always fighting for a job. No matter what I did, I had to prove myself, even when I was 17-1 as a starter. Draft picks have to prove they can’t play. Undrafted free agents, we always had to prove we could.”
This is one of the most exciting times for Steelers fans as they build towards another Super Bowl run!
In celebration of the draft, here are some of the exciting and personal draft stories of some former Steelers. With over 400 interviews, Steelers Takeaways tells the personal draft stories of a hundreds of former players, including’;
Quotes from former Steelers we’ve interviewed about Ernie Stautner that played with him in the 50’s:
Dick Lasse: “Ernie Stautner was the toughest lineman in the league. He had a tremendous desire and work ethic. Everyone looked up to him with respect. He had the best forearm. He could deal a blow to an offensive lineman…”
Frank Varriochione: “Ernie Stautner and I hit it off real good. We became buddies and hung around together. We were all adults so we didn’t mentor each other much. We knew we had to play and practice. The game wasn’t that much different than it was in college then.”
Sean McHugh: “After my first week in Pittsburgh my wife arrived with my son and we were eating dinner in Cranberry when James Harrison was eating there as well and stopped by our table and introduced himself to my wife and told us that if we needed anything to let him know.”
Cortez Allen: “I also used to train at the same facility as James Harrison did in the offseason in Arizona. He was always the first in the building and I’d watch him in awe. He brought everything he had all the time. Well, this day was his upper body day. He finished and then Terrell Suggs came over and was struggling to finish his set. So James walked over and took it over from him and just started lifting like it was nothing, showing Suggs up! I always had a lot of respect for James.”
First, I spoke with former Steeler CJ Goodwin a short while ago and he praised the Youth Home and how it helped him. How did you get started with the youth home – what inspired the idea – and how has the team and city helped the youth home succeed?
The Mel Blount Youth Home was inspired years ago – in 1979-1980. It was soon after our last Super Bowl. I grew up n a small town in Vidalia, Georgia. We were dirt farmers and lived in a small community I was the first athlete from there and the first to win something like a Super Bowl.
When I went back home, all the kids would call me Uncle Mel. The kids would come to the farm and get autographs, take pictures with me and throw the football around. That’s when the Lord spoke to me. I knew I could do more than just sign autographs for the kids. it made me want to do more.
My brother and I started talking about how we we could do more and work with kids, and starting throwing ideas around. We talked about how it was on the farm with the kids – remember, this was before social media and cell phones. It was a big deal for the kids to see someone in person that they saw on TV.
First, as a legendary coach for Bethune-Cookman, tell me a little about how you entered into coaching and how influenced how you coached?
I never did any coaching before I got the job in 1961. I got the offer after I hurt my knee in Pittsburgh – I told them I’d give it a try after the coach that was there for fifteen years had to quit. He got sick and had to give up coaching, so I called just at the right time.
The president of the university was my high school coach. He knew of me but didn’t know what kind of athlete I was, I didn’t know either!
They had no athletic director, no coaches… I told them I’d take all of that. They had no players returning. so it was a kind of rough. Continue reading
First, let us know how is CFL going – is the goal to get back to the NFL?
Yeah, I’m trying to get back to the NFL. I’m hoping for one more time in the NFL. If not, I can make a career up here. Heck, the crime rate is only 5% up here so I’d be safer at least!
How has the CFL helped your career?
Well it’s given me more film to show other teams. I only had one year of film to show from the NFL. So that definitely helps. They can see I’m still a playmaker, doing what I’ve done all my life. And it definitely should help people who claim I’m a troublemaker see that I’ve never had problems here and to prove that I’m not a problem for anyone.
First, tell me about life as a scout – what got your started as a scout and what do you enjoy about it?
When I was playing I would always go into the scouting room and talk to Bill Nunn and the other guys there that were so integral to the guys we drafted. I was always interested in understanding how all of these talented guys got there and would ask them questions about how we found all of these amazing athletes.
They tried to deter me about the job – said it was too much travel. But after I played for as long as I could I called a number of teams asking for a chance to internship with them, and Phil Kreidler in Pittsburgh gave me a chance to pursue that interest. After it was over he called and asked me if I was still serious about being a scout. Now, ten years later, here I am!