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Don Alley, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1969

APRIL 5, 2013

First, can you let readers know what you’ve been doing with yourself since your time in the NFL?

After getting injured in Canada in 1971, I came back to Colorado and worked with my fathers construction company for about three years, but my love for golf lured me into the PGA apprentice program in 1974 and I spent about 25 years as a club golf professional.  I got out of the business in 2001 and have been kind of semi-retired since.

You started in the NFL in 1967 with the Baltimore Colts. As a 16th round pick from a small school (Adams State) how did you prove yourself to the coaches to make the team?

I was a very similar reciever to Raymond Berry who was somewhat successful for a few years, and I think that because of his success, I might have got a little longer look than I would have otherwise.  I did have a good work ethic, and wasn’t afraid to spend my time on the “special teams”

You were out of football in 1968 correct? What happened that season and how did you find yourself in Pittsburgh in 1969?

I chipped a transverse process in my neck in our last pre-season game in 1968 and spent the year on IR.

Both in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who helped mentor you as a young player – both on and off the field – and how did they do so – any examples?

Raymond and Lenny Moore taught me how to play simply by watching them, which I had been doing for many years before the Colts drafted me.  I also used to go to watch Lionel Taylor with the Bronco’s while I was in high school and college.

You played both linebacker and wide receiver. How did you manage to play two such divergent positions and which did you prefer, and why?

I’ve seen in several bio’s that I was listed as a linebacker, but I never was.  I worked a little as a tight end, but was a bit small.

What kind of player were you? If people asked what you were like as an NFL player, how would you describe yourself?

I had great hands, and ran great routes, but was just a step or two slow.  The bump and run was just becomming popular among defensive backs, and it took pure speed to combat those tactics, which I didn’t have.

I think if we would have thought of multiple reciever sets and motion by the recievers, my career would have been prolonged somewhere …. although probably not in Pittsburgh, as Stallworth and Swan were about to arrive.

Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against – both in practice and on game days?

Mike Curtis was the toughest, Pat Fisher was the meanest

You came to Pittsburgh the first year of Chuck Noll’s time there. What did you notice about how players adapted to his coaching style, and what were your thoughts of him that season?

Chuck Noll was the defensive co-ordinator in Baltimore the whole time I was there.  He brought Don Shula’s offensive playbook, verbatum, with him to Pittsburgh.  It was a rather complicated offense and I was just beginning to get a handle on it after two seasons and three training camps.

I arrived in Pittsburgh right after our last pre-season game and a week before the first regular season game, and I recall that nobody including the assistant coaches knew the plays.  We were practicing at the fairgrounds on a field that my high school team wouldn’t have practiced on, Three Rivers stadium was under construction, and we were to play our home games at Pitt stadium, and I really felt that I had taken a really big step backward comming from a Super Bowl team in Baltimore to a rather dis-organized situation in Pittsburgh.

Chuck Noll wasn’t a real nice or endearing man at that time, but winning and success breeds respect, and he certainly did achieve that.

How big of a role did humor play on that Steelers team and who were some of the guys that were the biggest characters on that team? What made them so – any examples?

There really wasn’t much humor or much reason for it on a 1 – 13 team.  I don’t remember laughing very often that season.  I had never been on a losing team before in any sport, and it was a new experience

You stopped playing after the ’69 season. What prompted that decision?

After the 1969 season, I was traded to San Diego.  Lance Alworth, and Gary Garrison were still in their prime, and they had just drafted a reciever in the first and third rounds (Billy Parks and Walker Gillette) plus 1970 was the first NFLPA strike, which lasted about halfway through training camp.   I just didn’t have much of a chance, and was released just before the first preseason game.

I caught on with a minor league team in Pottstown, Pa and had a wonderful season leading the league in scoring, and finishing 2nd in receptions, and was the leagues most valuable offensive player.  No NFL team seemed interested in 1971, so I signed with the Vancouver BC Lions, but broke an arm in our first preseason game.  two years and three operations later, I finally was out of the cast, but golf was becomming a greater lure than football, and my life headed in that direction.

Are the NFL and NFLPA doing enough for retired players, in your opinion?

Don’t get me started on the NFLPA or it’s multi-millionaire members… rather sore spot !!!

Rodney Bailey, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 2001-2003, 2006

APRIL 25, 2013

Rodney Bailey:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself since the NFL and how you got started in your post-NFL career?

I’m the regional director for Visalus. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been out of the NFL. Before that I was on tv – the New Network’s Average Joe and the Wall to Wall Sports Show, a local show in Columbus, Ohio.

Can you let readers know more about Visalus?

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Not only am I an independent promoter of the 90-Day Challenge, I am also a customer/believer; I lost 86 pounds in my first 90-Day Challenge!!! Please take a look at this overview link (http://www.overview.bodybyvi.com), and at the attached flyer. I would love to host a challenge partiffy anyone if they are  interested. At this party you will:- Taste the delicious Vi-shape shake, which is the centerpiece of the 90-day challenge.- Watch a short DVD that introduces the 90-day challenge to you.- Learn about the opportunity to become a promoter of the challenge, and earn residual income. – Ask questions about the challenge.- Order products.

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How hard was it for you to adjust to life after the NFL and what was your biggest adjustment?

It was trial and error. It’s definitely not easy. You go from something you love and have a passion for and you look for something that mirrors that. Basically though what you accomplish in the NFL is second to none. And there’s no exit plan from the NFL. You have to be creative. Anything I can say from those leaving the NFL is to know what you want to try to do early on and try for that.

You were a very highly touted player coming out of high school in Cleveland – named the Cleveland Touchdown Club player of the year and one of the top 40 high school recruits. What made you decide to play for Ohio State and ans what was your high school position?

I was a defensive end in high school. I set a goal and committed to Ohio State right before my senior year. It was the only place I wanted to go. It was my favorite school and a no brainer for me. I had no other visits – it was Ohio State or bust and I’m thankful for the decision.

You were drafted by the Steelers in the 6th round in 2001. How hard was it for you to make the team as a later round pick and how did you manage to do so?

You are definitely right – it’s not easy. You need to take a business approach to it – to be a professional. Come in in shape and work hard. Most rookies come in with a big learning curve so you have to be sharp – in practices and in games. You have to be on every single day.

Who helped you most to adjust to the NFL as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how so?

Coach Mitchell. He was a big inspiration for me – still is. He worked me very hard because he was potential. He told me I needed to grow up fast – that this wasn’t college. And he was right.

He was more than a coach. He kept it light. He was a friend. You talk to any other lineman – any other player – and they’d say the same thing.

Was it frustrating having to adapt to a 3-4 defense – especially with so many high quality linemen like Hampton, Smith and Von Oelhoffen there?

Casey and I came in together in the same draft class. I watched the defense growing up – how hard it worked. I saw that the defensive lineman in the 3-4 were different. I was thankful to have Aaron and Kimo there to serve as great examples to mirror. They worked extra after practice with us to have us prepared. They made sure that the rookies were as polished as they were. It was a big inspiration for me. We wanted to care for the older guys like they cared for us and it made us work harder for the unit.

It wasn’t that hard to adjust. There were so many blitz concepts – but you’re still a defensive lineman. The principles are no different – get off the blocks, use your hands and make tackles. It’s a team defense. You’re not counting tackles. You’re playing a team concept.

Some say the scheme is too complicated and young guys don’t get a chance to play because of that. Is that true?

That’s just an excuse. It’s not true at all. The defense can simplify your job. If you know exactly what’s asked of you and what you are supposed to do…. When things go right, you know why. It’s a team defense that makes you want to play for those linebackers behind you.

Who were some of the biggest characters on those teams and what made them so? Any funny stories to share of your time with the team?

Oh, countless guys! Keisel – he and I had a lot of laughs together. Every guy was a character on the team, it seemed.

Cowher let the craziness go – he embraced it. Hampton was one of the funniest guys in the world – he always had a smile on his face. My roommate was Kendrell Bell – he and Haggans were some of the funniest guys. They all had their personalities, but we all came together. We were  a tight unit.

Oh -and Jerome Bettis. What an awesome personality. He personified what a great teammate was.

You left Pittsburgh after the 2003 season to play for New England and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. What made you decide to sign with New England and how hard of a decision was that for you?

I was a restricted free agent at the time. I had the offer sheet and it paid me considerably more than what I would have made otherwise. I was difficult to leave behind a family and go to a new team. Many don’t realize how difficult it is.

We won a Super Bowl, which was one of the coolest things. Then the following year I lost the Super Bowl after I signed with Seattle and we played the Steelers!

I came back to afterwards to where my career began – in Pittsburgh. I am a Steeler. Black and Gold is what I bleed. What you are is where you come from.

Did you get a good amount of ribbing from your teammates and what made you decide to come back?

Oh we had a lot of fun with it. I left then got a Super Bowl win then lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. They told me “You got one but we got you back!” So we were even (laughing)…

How were the Steelers different from those other teams you played for?

The greatest thing about the Steelers is that it is a family. You’re treated well – if you were a first round pick or a free agent, you’re a family member. No matter if you played for one year or twelve years, you’re a Steeler for life. That’s unique to most NFL teams. My time in New England, Seattle, Arizona…I’m still remembered as a Steeler. That’s due to a great fanbase and locker room.

What are some of your favorite memories now looking back on your time in Pittsburgh, and what makes them so?

I was born and raised on the West Side of Cleveland. Our rival was the Browns. For me, the epic battles in those games – and getting the better fo Cleveland was something  great to be a part of.  My family were Browns fans!

One of the most electrifying moments was in my second season – the 2002 wild card game versus Cleveland. We came back from over three touchdowns to beat the, It was an awesome, defining win for us. Many family members didn’t speak to me for three-to-four weeks (laughing).

Just remembering the bus rides to Cleveland – I was very thankful to be a part of that.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I love the city of Pittsburgh – it’s one of my favorite places in the United States. The food and enthusiasm…and all of the time. In the offseason and in-season. I’m glad to see the tradition keeping on as new players come in.

I’m proud of my seven-year career. I got the chance to play with great friends and for great coaches. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t know what the NFL life would be like but I’m very, very, very happy to have worn the black and gold helmet for four years of my career.