First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL life. What have you been doing since the NFL and how you got started?
I am still in the Pittsburgh area living with my wife, son and daughter. I am currently working for Stryker Medical selling medical devices. I graduated with an education degree wanting to be a teacher. I had friends and family working in the Medical sales field and it sparked my interest. It was my first real job after playing and have not looked back. I find that this industry has a lot of competition. I still have the hunger to compete and this gives me my fix.
How hard was it for you to adjust to life after the NFL and how did you do so? What about your time it he NFL helped you?
It was not hard at all. NFL and college football set me up to be successful. It taught me that hard work and preparation can take you far in this world. Knowing that I can compete in such an elite profession, gave me the confidence to go after the things I wanted. Not only the successes but the setbacks taught me lessons.
You were signed on by the Steelers in 1999 as an undrafted free agent. Why Pittsburgh – what made you decide to sign with them and what did they tell you your role would be?
I actually signed with the Chicago Bears only to be released a short time after. They would not pass me on their physical. Due to previous knee surgeries, they had concerns. Once I was released, I thought that might have been my only chance. I continued to train for a few weeks when I received the call from the Steelers wanting to sign me. I was excited to say the least. Playing for any team would be a dream come true but the Steelers made it unbelievable. I passed their physical with flying colors, and went to work. Their role might have been different than mine. My role was going to be to compete.
Having played at Pitt – how did that help you and did that add extra pressure, performing in front of family/friends?
Just being in an area that I knew and had friends helped. I think I would feel pressure no matter where I was.
As a new Steeler, who helped mentor you most and helped you adjust to the team – both on and off the field – and how did they do so?
We had a great rookie class. Hanging out with them was a blast. That helped with the adjustment. The veterans that mentored me the most would be Jim Sweeney who was a 14 year vet at the time and Dermontti Dawson who is one of the all-time greats to play at center. Not only on the field but the way they handled themselves off.
The team was deep at offensive line with many veterans – guys like Faneca, Gandy, Duffy and others were there. How competitive and helpful were the other linemen- and how so?
It was definitely deep with a lot of guys. Faneca held out signing his contract which gave me the opportunity to run with the first and second strings. This helped me get the snaps I probably would not of received otherwise. All the offensive line stuck together and helped each other. Everyone new to give all they had and everything would sort itself out.
What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL game?
Knowing that the players you are facing are as good if not better than the best you played in college. You have to be on your game always. You will not be able to make any mistakes and get away with it.
How much did humor play a part on the team – can you offer some examples of the hijinks or funny occurrences?
Humor played a big part. When your with a great group of teammates and friends those things just happen.
Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against – both in practice and on game days – and what made them so?
There were a lot, but the one person that I use to go to battle with on a daily bases was Joel Steed. He was one of those players that just seemed to be made of something different them everyone else.
Do you watch football often now? What do you think of the way the game has changed?
Yes. It is in my blood and will never leave. I actually prefer college but enjoy it all. Although it was a fast pace game then, it seems to of gotten faster. Do not see a lot of the grinding it out every play to get 3-4 yards on the ground.
What advice would you give players entering the game today?
Do everything you can to take advantage of the opportunity. You never know when you will be playing your last snap. You are not entitled to anything. Be appreciative of the opportunity and work your butt off.
Can you give your thoughts on the new Pitt coaching staff and program?
I think Coach Narduzzi will be a great coach. We just need him to stick around. The program really needs some consistency with the coaching staff and I hope they get it. Pitt needs to be a destination school for coaches not a stepping stone to other schools. I am always hopeful for the team to be competitive and improve every year.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Although I wish it was longer, I am very grateful for the opportunity I had. Great people and great friends were met.
Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: