When head coach Bill Cowher was hired by the Steelers in 1992, he made a vow to owner Dan Rooney that he would bring that elusive “one for the thumb” back to the Steel City. Even though the wait was long at 14 years, he delivered as promised, as his Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. And there was an unlikely figure who had a hand, or throw, in it.
Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who played quarterback at the University of Indiana, used some of those passing skills when took a fourth quarter reverse from running back Willie Parker and connected with Hines Ward on a beautiful 43-yard touchdown strike that pretty much put the victory on ice for Pittsburgh. In doing so, Randle El became the first wide receiver to ever throw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. We all likely recall it like it was just yesterday, and Randle El parlayed his successful tenure with Pittsburgh into a free agent deal with the Redskins following the team’s Super Bowl season in 2005. Although not as successful there as his time in the black and gold, he eventually found his way home, returning to Pittsburgh via free agency in 2010.
After retiring from the game in 2012, many fans haven’t heard anything from the fun-loving receiver who always seemed to have a smile glued to his face. He currently runs his own charity organization, aptly titled “the EL Foundation.” The charity’s emphasis is on providing not only a support system but also recreational activities for poverty-stricken youth and their families across the country. Now in it’s tenth year, Randle El deems it highly successful.
“We have been able to reach out to underprivileged children and provide them with life changing opportunities,” said Randle El, according to Colin Brennan of WUSA9.com. “Sometimes that opportunity is simply showing love, whether that is taking a kid to lunch, taking them to breakfast, doing a coat drive and making sure that kids are warm for the winter. Things like that let a kid know that someone cares about them.”
A devout Christian, Randle El said whether it was playing professional football at the highest level for nine seasons or running his current charity, his faith was the inspiration and drive.
“I know without God I wouldn’t be here,” Randle El said, according to Brennan. “I know that I am a sinner and I know Jesus will be there to forgive me, and that he loves me, and because of that I want everybody to know that.”
Always viewed as a leader in the community, whether in Pittsburgh or Washington, Randle El believes catching footballs and running a charity actually go hand-in-hand and are based on a lot of the same principles, a main one being teamwork.
“You have offensive lineman blocking, you have a quarterback dropping back looking for you, and after you catch the ball it is up to you,” he said.
He gave credit to some of his partners like Keller Williams and The Yahner Group for helping him put events together to effectively run his organization.
“Kids in high school and middle school deal with all the issues under the sun, and they don’t know how to deal with them,” he said. “Being able to talk to them and reach out to them about their issues, with my foundation, I know what I am going to say to them is going to make a difference.”
In a day and age where many NFL players make the news for all the wrong reasons, Randle El’s story is a breath of fresh air.