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Willie Colon Recalls His Pre-Draft Visit, Thought Steelers Hated Him

In my estimation, Willie Colon remains one of the most underrated offensive linemen in recent Pittsburgh Steelers history. Even though he was somewhat undersized, he became a very good pass-blocking right tackle, and later on moved to left guard. The only thing that ultimately dogged him was his health.

He even went on to have a couple of good years with the New York Jets before retiring after the 2015 season, carving out a decade-long career, which is not bad for a Bronx native who attended Hofstra University.

The 131st pick in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, he was part of the last class before Mike Tomlin came in and Russ Grimm left as offensive line coach. Recently, he recalled his pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh before he was drafted, including his meeting with Grimm.

“He throws on my tape, and I’m like, oh man, I know I didn’t have a good Pro Day. So I’m thinking I’m about to get ripped or whatever”, he said. “He watches me run the 40. He watches me to the L drill and all this other stuff. He turns off the tape, and he goes, ‘how much do you think I care about all this?’”.

“He goes, ‘I give two shits about this. All I need you to do is move a man from A to B. Can you do that?’. I’m like, ‘fuck yeah!’, and he goes, ‘alright, see you soon’”, he went on. He continued to say that he “spent about a total of 25 minutes in that building. They knew why I was there, they didn’t need to see much, they talked to me for 20 minutes. ‘Thanks Willie, see you soon’”.

Based on that visit, he didn’t exactly think that he had made a lasting impression. He even said that he didn’t think the Steelers liked him, yet there they were ready to pick him in the compensatory portion of the fourth round.

“I probably visited 31 out of 32 teams preparing for the draft”, Colon said. “If you were to ask me who was the team who hated me the most, [I would have said] it was the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I end up getting drafted. I tell everyone that story because…at the end of the day, can you get the job done?”.

Colon became a full-time starter by his second season in 2006, and didn’t miss a game for three years. then in 2010, he tore his Achilles in June (prompting the Steelers to sign Flozell Adams). The next year, he tore his triceps in Week One.

In part given his injuries, the Steelers drafted three linemen in 2012, including Mike Adams in the second round, with then-second-year Marcus Gilbert having started most of the previous season.

Gilbert took over the right tackle job, and the team moved him to left guard for that season. Unfortunately, he would miss five games due to injury that year as well, ending up on injured reserve, and he would be a salary cap casualty in 2013 (along with, among others, James Harrison. He would sign with the Jets and play three more years, but missed 10 games in his final season before calling it a career.

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