Running backs usually had a bad day if they saw Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and Brett Keisel all in the same building at the same time. They made up the front line of the Pittsburgh Steelers dominant run defenses during the 2000s, with Chris Hoke playing a vital role as the number four as well.
All of them had the opportunity to reunite recently in order to pay homage to Hampton, who was honored with a roast at Mel Blount’s Youth Home All-Star Celebrity Roast, held for the 21st year in a row to raise funds for his Youth Leadership Initiative charity, which has been doing good work for a long time in the Hall of Famer’s name.
“It’s a great honor in the sense that the things I have done, he would look at me in that light”, Hampton said at the roast, via the team’s website. “It’s humbling. It makes me realize I did things the right way, and I always try to do things the right way. For a guy like that to show me enough respect, to honor me, it’s a huge deal for me. I am really appreciative of it and it means a lot that he thinks that much of me”.
The man they call Big Snack was treated to bot the barbs and praises of his close friends and former teammates as well. Former defensive line coach John Mitchell was in attendance, among others. Mitchell is the only position coach that group of players ever knew, and left his imprint on all of them.
Saying of Hampton that “he is a great guy”, Mitchell added, “even when I got mad at Casey, I couldn’t get mad at him. The rest of the players during his time, I had a great relationship with all of them. With Casey, we had a different type of relationship. They would always say Casey has a special place in my heart and he does”.
Hampton, a first-round draft pick, was the true prototypical zero-tech nose tackle. A mammoth obstruction who would routine take on two blockers at a time, he was the anchor of the Steelers’ dominant run defense. The physical aspect of the position came easy to him, and he carved out a long career doing it, forging relationships along the way.
“I got to know Casey on more than a player and coach relationship”, Mitchell said. “It was like a father and son relationship. Casey would come to me at times, and we all had problems. Casey gave everything he had. Everything he had he shared with people he cared about”.
The Steelers are fortunate to have the rich history of player relations that they share and maintain, which is actually now one of Mitchell’s responsibilities in his full-time role as assistant head coach under Mike Tomlin. To have players like Hampton and Keisel remain a presence—Keisel will announce the team’s third-round draft picks this year—is a boon not every team gets to benefit from.