Lippock: Steelers Draft Stories

This is one of the most exciting times for Pittsburgh 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’;

Rod Woodson: “I never talked to Pittsburgh – I had no conversations with them at all throughout the process. I did talk to the Chargers and New Orleans, who I think would have taken me right after Pittsburgh.

I knew that if I was there at Pittsburgh’s pick they would take me. Stouffer and Junken were taken before me – earlier than most people thought they would be. I was blessed to end up going to one of the best sports organizations in all of sports. When they called me, they asked if I would mind being a Steeler. I was like, really? Definitely! It was one of my best memories, sitting at home in Indiana with my family together when I got that call.”

Mike Wagner: “So, I went to school at Western Illinois University, which was in the cornfields of Western Illinois. Nothing but cornfields there the this giant modern campus near this little town. it was hard for scouts to get there. I didn’t have a scholarship when I got there. They didn’t have cell phones then. If you lived in a dorm or fraternity, you may have had a phone in the hall.

So, I didn’t find out I was drafted for a couple of days. They called my coach who tracked me down and told me to call the Steelers. So I did and Ralph Berlin called me back and said congratulations, and told me they were going to negotiate a contract with me. I told him that was great and asked him to contact my agent. There was this pause. And then he said “Agent? You’re an eleventh round pick. You have an agent!?” I just told him that, with all respect sir, yes, to please call him and he’ll take care of it!”

Lionel Taylor: “Before the draft we were deciding on whether we wanted to draft Swann or Stallworth round one. Chuck was leaning towards Stallworth but Haley said Stallworth would be there around round four. At the Senior Bowl I saw Stallworth play. One play he ran down the sideline and had his guy beat but the pass was under-thrown and he waited on it and the defensive back knocked it away. The coach talked to him right after the play and later on he had his guy beat again on the sideline and again the ball was under-thrown. This time Stallworth jumped back into the ball and caught it. Whatever the coach told him he listened to and right then I knew Stallworth was a coachable player.”

Carlton Haselrig: “I was surprised to be drafted by the Steelers though, even if it was in the last round. I actually had a free agent contract set up for the next day – I went through the process with my agent to see who was the best fit for me. Pittsburgh was definitely in the conversation but I was surprised they drafted me.”

Scottie Montgomery: “I liked Antonio Brown really high in the draft. Mike and Kevin though knew to take Emmanuel Sanders much earlier – in the third round. They felt Antonio could be had later. My feelings were hurt – I wanted AB higher – but finally Mike came into my office in the sixth round and told me to stop moping, that we could take him now. They knew better. I had to have the humility to know they knew better than to take him as high as I wanted too.”

Mel Blount: “I was surprised. I didn’t know anybody on the Steelers. They weren’t a good team then. It’s funny because sometimes what you think is the best thing for you isn’t always the best thing. It turned out it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me the opportunity to grow and adjust to that kind of life,

In college, I had nothing from the clothes on my back. You go from that to getting checks and cars and money. It was a big adjustment.

How did you find out you were drafted?

The coaches had to come find me on campus. There wasn’t the build-up to the draft like there is today. The coaches told me to go to the coaches office and we called the Steelers. I talked with Art Rooney – he was the scout then. I was disappointed. I went in the third round and like everyone, i thought I should have been a number one pick. But it turned out to be a blessing.“

Tony Dungy: “I think the Lord must have set it up for me to be there. Through elementary school, high school, and college I always thought I’d play quarterback in the NFL

I could have played quarterback in Canada for the Montreal Alouettes out of college. Marv Levy was the coach there and he wanted me to play for them and told me I could be a successful quarterback for them. But I wanted to play against the best, in the NFL.

The Steelers called too and they told me they wanted me to change positions and help the team at a different position. Now it was a decision to play a position I knew or to go against the best.

It was something, a feeling inside that is hard to explain.I could have taken a $50,000 bonus and guaranteed money in Canada, or the $2,000 bonus and no guarantee in Pittsburgh to even make the team. But something inside drove me to go to Pittsburgh and try to make ti work there.”

Chris Hope: “Now I know better, having experienced the NFL, I know now why they drafted me. There was a lot of interest in me by Pittsburgh at my pro day. Willy Robinson, the Steelers Defensive Backs Coach was there. Bryant McFadden went to college with me and he was there too cheering us on. He told me the Steelers coach was watching me and making good comments about me. I’m not sure how he heard, if the coach was speaking through a microphone! But I ran a 4.45 40 on grass, which was a fast time for a safety. It was a good fit. But then, I was just focused on having a good pro day. I didn’t know what would happen for sure. I knew the Eagles were also interested but they drafted Michael Lewis.”

Mark Bruener: “I had a great opportunity to meet Coach Cowher and the rest of the coaching staff then. For the draft, this is a funny story. I was watching at my folks’ house and was waiting to see who would take me. As the Steelers pick came up the phone rang. They asked if it was Mark and I said it was, then they said hold on. Now, this was before cell phones. I look and see my name on the screen telling me I was drafted but no one got on and said congratulations ….I was ecstatic – I can’t describe the feeling. I don’t know if they were talking to someone about a trade or what happened though! But it was a dream come true. It was the chance to play the sport you played since you were a kid at the ultimate level.”

Russell Davis: “I thought I might be a first round pick. That was the scuttlebutt. I had a great career at Michigan, How many fullbacks rush for 1,000 yard seasons. I was at home but after the second round I apologized to my family and went to my girlfriends house. My father called me though and told me I needed to get back home, that the Steelers called and said they were going to draft me. I went home and they called back and congratulated me on being drafted. I forgot who called me but they told me they’d fly me up for a meet and greet.”

Donta Jones“The Giants, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay all seemed more interested before the draft. I had no clue the Steelers were interested. It was a dream come true. The day of the draft, as the draft went on, Kiper had me going to San Francisco in the second round. But playing out of position, I fell to the fourth round. Denver was on the clock when the Steelers called. Everyone in the room thought Denver was drafting me.”

Mike Miller: “I loved mock draft day. Colbert would hold mock draft day every year the day before the draft. He was always very prepared and we would run through a million scenarios on the magnetic board. Each time showing that if one thing happens and teams do one thing, and a player is still there, which player do we want then… We’d do it again and again.

Well, in 2003 I was on the offensive side of the staff but I watched film of Troy Polamalu. He was amazing. Kenny Jackson wasn’t there for some reason so Kevin looked at me and asked who I’d take in one of the scenarios. Everyone was in the room – the coaches, scouts and front office people…

So, I got up and said we pick at twenty-seven, but at twenty-two, the Jets get a phone call, and the Steelers announce they traded up to get Troy Polamalu. Well, there was a big “Woooo!” in the room from everyone!

The offensive coaches gave me a lot of slack. It turned into an argument. They were pretty upset and asked me why I did it. That the only safety that should ever be taken that high was Ronnie Lott. I told them I watched the film on this guy. I told them Polalamu won’t be as good as Lott.. That he will be better than Lott!

The next day I walked in to the draft room and the coaches asked me if I was happy. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Then they told me the Steelers had traded up at pick sixteen to get Polamalu!”

Louis Lipps“Bill Nunn called – he called me a few times. He asked if I was excited to play for the Steelers and that if I was still there at their pick they would probably take me. He was rambling a bit and my agent got frustrated that he was tying up the line. About fifteen minutes later Bill called again and my agent got fed up and told Bill not to call again unless I was picked – there’s no switchboard at the pizza joint! Well, the next time, around noon, Bill called again and I could see on the screen the paper being passed up for my pick.”

Dwayne Woodruff: “I was listening to the draft on the radio with Nathan and the Steelers had the last pick in the sixth round. The time on the radio program had just run out before that sixth pick. We didn’t hear who was picked and neither one figured it was us. We were walking out the door when the phone rang and the person on the phone said the Steelers just drafted you. I thought it was a prank because everyone knew the radio program had just turned off before the pick, so I hung up on them. The phone rang again, and the defensive coach George Perles was on the phone and told me, don’t hang up on me this time! That’s how I got drafted.”

Doug Whaley: “Character means different things. Its a combination in Pittsburgh – football character and off-the-field character. Football character is what we did a really good job of looking for when I was there. That means that their whole agenda should be about being the best they can be to help the team win a Super Bowl. In the training room, weight room – everything should be about helping the team win.”

Chukky Okobi: “I got the call from Mike Miller, an assistant offense coach at the time. He was making small talk trying to tie up my phone line so nobody else would draft me in that round. It felt like destiny to me more than anything else.  I felt like I had been a part of his team whole life anyway, just like every other Steelers fan out there!”

Greg Hawthorne: “Joe Greene was my inspiration. He came to my house in Texas after I was drafted.  I didn’t even know he was in the area. My mom told me to come downstairs. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to play pro ball when I was drafted.”

Dale Dodrill: “I wasn’t aware that I was drafted. No one contacted me. I didn’t know much about the NFL then. My dad used to ask me when I was going to get a real job when I first started playing in the NFL. I found out later I was drafted when I got a letter and contract in the mail. I was never contacted personally.”

Tony Hills“I had one meeting with the Steelers at the combine. It was fun. We talked football and family. Some nickname jokes. But I thought I was going to be drafted by the Chargers, to be honest. I was thinking the third round. That made sense to me. They invested in me – flying me in from Dallas to meet with the head man and the offensive line coach. When I left there I thought to myself, this is where I’m going. I was naive!

When the draft started, the first round went by and I was fine. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance. By the third round, I was getting excited. It was getting down to San Diego’s pick. I was looking at the picks and the clock, and when it came to San Diego, they announced the pick as…Jacob Hester. I was like, Whaaat? I had no idea what was about to happen then.”

These are just a small sampling of what you’ll find in Steelers Takeaways I It’s available on Amazon (and Barnes and Noble too) – it’s an inexpensive (only $20!) gift idea for any Steelers fan – including yourself. The book comprises over 400 interviews of former players and coaches – on topics from locker room/on-field humor and coach-player relationships, to race, religion, the business and physical side of the game, and much more.. Including interviews with players like Kevin Greene, Donnie Shell, Tommy Maddox, Lynn Swann, Kordell Stewart, J.T. Thomas, L.C. Greenwood, Hines Ward, Dermontti Dawson, Antwwan Randle El and literally hundreds more,  I think you’ll love it.. But don’t just take my word for it.

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