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Thread: Mike Webster Tribute

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    Default Mike Webster Tribute

    One of my alltime favorite Steelers was Mike Webster.....Unsung hero, overachieving, not in the spotlight like our biggest stars but tougher than any other......PITTSBURGH STEELER.......Reading about him made me deeply appreciate that he actually gave his life to be the best football player he could be...and I want to post a couple articles written about him in the Post Gazette at his time of passing in 2002.......before they are lost by us...forever.......

    Cook: Iron Mike was quite a warrior

    Wednesday, September 25, 2002

    How long has the Mike Webster portrait been hanging in Art Rooney Jr.'s office in the South Hills? Five years, maybe? Until yesterday, it had been just another pleasant reminder to Rooney Jr. of the greatest times of his life and the lives of so many others around here. But now, an hour or so after learning of Webster's sudden and premature death, Rooney Jr. studied every inch of the fabulous artwork. Quickly, it came to represent to him the greatest professional football team of all time.

    There was Webster, dressed in black and gold, in his familiar, grass-stained No. 52 uniform. There were his cold, hard eyes inside his scratched, chipped helmet, windows to the soul of a man who always refused to accept less than his best. Maybe more than anything, there were his bulging biceps exposed in his sleeveless jersey, which was designed solely to prevent defensive linemen from grabbing him but made him seem so tough, especially on those bitter-cold December and January days.

    "What a warrior he was," Rooney Jr. said.

    "He reminds me of someone from the old Coliseum days. When those guys died, they carried them out of the arena on their shield. When he was done playing football, they should have carried him off the field."

    Joe Greene had more fame, a Coke and a smile. Jack Lambert was more popular. Terry Bradshaw had more flair and still makes millions all these years later in broadcasting and public speaking. Jack Ham was a better player, the best of all the Super Steelers, actually. But no one symbolized the dynasty's strength and greatness quite like Iron Mike Webster.

    There never was a player in this town who was more dependable or durable. Webster played in a Steelers record 220 games, including 177 in a row at one point.

    There never was a better team captain or role model for his teammates. Webster's technique as an offensive lineman -- his ability to get leverage, to get up and under and deliver a rising blow -- was perfect, his work habits even better. We're not talking about a high draft choice. "I don't want to say he was a computer reject coming out of college, but he was awfully close," Rooney Jr. said.

    The player who lasted until the fifth round of the 1974 NFL draft because scouts thought he was too small and too slow willed himself into a career that lasted 17 years, took him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and prompted what might have been the all-time most memorable line on the steps of the Canton, Ohio, shrine.

    "What I would give right now to be able to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt just one more time!" Bradshaw screamed during his induction speech in 1989.

    Webster was some warrior.

    "I remember his first day at training camp his rookie year," said Rooney Jr., the Steelers' personnel chief at the time and an architect of their '70s dynasty. "Chuck Noll matched him against Lambert in the old Oklahoma drill. The first time, Webby knocked Lambert on his can. They did it again, and he knocked him down a second time. [Long-time Pittsburgh newspaper man] Phil Musick came over to me and said something to the effect of, 'Where did you find this stiff Lambert at?'

    "Who could have known that day we were watching one Hall of Famer block another Hall of Famer?"

    That's a better memory than the ones a lot of us have of Webster from late in what became a tortured life.

    Webster never was the same after the Steelers forced him into a brief retirement after the 1988 season after a bitter contract dispute. It wasn't just that he took his value -- right or wrong -- from playing football. He had given everything he had to the organization for 15 seasons. How could it abandon him when he needed it the most? He felt betrayed until the end.

    Webster came back to play two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he wasn't the same player. The Steelers had been right. He couldn't play at a high level anymore. One of sports' brutal truths is that everyone loses it eventually, even the legends.

    By then, Webster also was dealing with serious financial problems. Some say he made bad investments, others that he was duped by conniving associates. There were marital problems. There was a period of homelessness during which he told ESPN he lived out of his car. Later, he lived in a room at the Red Roof Inn in Robinson. Worst of all, there were debilitating health problems.

    Maybe all of it was from steroids, which were the rage in the NFL then. Webster always denied taking them, even though he exhibited some of the classic signs -- rapid weight gain, hair loss, acne and symptoms of congestive heart failure.

    Or maybe it was the result of repetitive head trauma as he claimed during a painful 1999 news conference after he was arrested for obtaining drugs with forged prescriptions. At a time, we were amazed by his incredible durability play after play, game after game and season after season, he said he slowly was being beaten brain-dead.

    Either way, Webster must have felt like half a man. Warriors aren't supposed to break down. Not like that.

    Webster's induction into the Hall of Fame in 1997 provided a lift. It's amazing how much a guy can make in these memorabilia-crazed times by signing his name and putting HOF after it. But not even that could give him back his dignity. Certainly, it couldn't give him back his health.

    That news conference in '99 had to be one of Webster's toughest days. As a player, he never had been comfortable in the media spotlight. Now, he was in the news for all the wrong reasons. With former teammates Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier seated by his side, he broke down when he apologized for embarrassing himself, his family and the great fans of Pittsburgh. He regrouped enough to make a point of stressing he wanted neither sympathy nor pity.

    Webster began being seen at fewer and fewer of the Super Steelers' many reunions. His health always was the excuse, but he could have attended if he had wanted. Sadly, he chose to stay away.

    It was a matter of pride. Most of Webster's teammates went on to highly successful, highly visible careers after football. Bradshaw. Greene. Ham. Blount. Bleier. Andy Russell. Franco Harris. Mike Wagner. L.C. Greenwood. The list goes on and on. He couldn't stand for them or for us to see him as he was, something much less than an invincible warrior. That same pride is why he turned down repeated offers of help, not just from teammates who admired and even idolized him -- Tunch Ilkin, Craig Wolfley, etc. -- but from the Rooneys, who were, in his mind, the cause of his bitterness. He frequently wouldn't even return the calls.

    Until the end, Webster was convinced he could make it on his own, just as he had in football.

    What a sad, lonely death his must have been.
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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Finder: Young Webster stands tall, even in crisis

    Sunday, September 29, 2002

    After every game, his father would be waiting. After every practice, his father would be there to pick him up. Suddenly, after sacking the Ambridge High School quarterback and raising his right index finger to the heavens in salute to his father, the realization, the dread, struck the son as he stood along the sideline Friday night.

    Iron Mike wouldn’t be around to lean on, to hold, to support anymore.

    So the hulking teen-ager wearing the familiar No. 52 and bearing the Webster legacy across his stout shoulders hung his helmeted head low through most of the fourth quarter of Moon’s 42-8 victory.

    “It was hard late in the game,” Garrett Webster said afterward. “It got emotional.”

    How could it not? This 18-year-old endured so much throughout the week, throughout the 2 1/2 years since he had moved from Wisconsin to spend time with his ailing father.

    The iron man long known as an indomitable, invincible Hall of Fame center was wracked by aches and pains and a mind rattled from a generation of violent collisions. He used to telephone his son, lost and confused. He needed help rising from the couch. He told some he suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

    “What people have to understand is that you’re 17, 18 years old, and you have to take care of your dad more than he takes care of you,” said Moon Coach Mark Capuano.

    Dad watched over the second youngest of his four children, to be sure. There was always time for football and John Wayne movies and meals out, away from the Moon apartment with the relatively barren refrigerator. Even last Sunday, when Mike Webster had a heart attack that hastened the descent to his death Tuesday at 50, he was fretting for his baby boy. “That last day, he was worried about getting me something to eat,” the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Garrett told a standing-room-only funeral service hours before playing football Friday night. “As you can tell, I don’t really need more food.”

    Funny thing, this dynamic between the rapidly growing son and the slowly dying father. They were best friends 32 years apart. “We were like two 13-year-olds,” Garrett said.

    He has the sense of humor of a man much older, an NFL veteran. He has the sense of humor of his father. You can hear it in his wisecracks on the most sorrowful day of his young life.

    Who will live with him now that his father is gone? His mother, Pam. “She can cook.”

    Where does the Moon senior want to attend college and play football? “A major-college program. With good-looking girls and cold weather.”

    What caused him to point skyward after bulling through the Ambridge offensive line and tossing quarterback Riley Wallace into the midfield mire for a sack on the fourth quarter’s first play? “I didn’t have an arm cramp, honest.”

    He was here all week, folks.

    Actually, he missed two Moon practices, what with being at his father’s bedside at Allegheny General Hospital, helping to make funeral plans, serving as the family’s spokesman. Most 18-year-olds might curl up in a ball and stay secluded in an empty apartment after losing a father, a roommate, a best friend. Not him.

    “What good is it going to do? Talking to people about my dad, I can feel like I’m carrying on my dad’s legacy. I don’t feel crushed. I’m not angry. I’m not saying, ‘Why did my dad leave me?’ I’m sad that I lost my best friend. But he’d want me to keep working and do everything I can.”

    There were eight hours of visitation Thursday at the Joseph M. Somma Funeral Home in Robinson. There were 200-plus mourners in the funeral home for 2 1/2 hours Friday morning, then a luncheon at a nearby fire hall, Capuano and coaches and Tigers teammates attending each one. A few hours later before Moon’s game Friday night, Pam Webster sewed a patch -- a gold 52 on a black square background -- on the left shoulder of her baby boy’s white-on-red No. 52 jersey.

    He wore black sweatbands on each forearm. He scrawled in black marker on the tape covering his left wrist: MW 1952-2002, RIP. He was, for a second consecutive week, one of the Tigers’ game captains. Then, once the game started inside Moon Stadium, he hunkered on all fours and played right defensive tackle -- recording one tackle for a 2-yard loss and that fourth-quarter sack.

    His father wouldn’t be waiting outside the locker room this time. Wouldn’t be spouting into his son’s ear for 2 1/2 hours about how this guy should have played it that way. The man who got lost in a car was crystal clear about the football in which he called many a play for Terry Bradshaw: “He’d remember the most minute detail,” the son marveled.

    He has borne so much, this manchild of the Hall of Famer. He was blessed with the natural size and strength that his father worked too hard to attain. He must work diligently himself to achieve anywhere near the level of football ability people will expect of someone with the Webster name across his shoulders. Seems with him being a Badgers legacy and Coach Barry Alvarez being from Steelers country, the University of Wisconsin would be a perfect fit, though he hasn’t heard from that school among his stack of Division I-A mail.

    Next on his list?

    Moving mom and maybe sister Hilary from Wisconsin and into the apartment.

    Starting next week on both offense and defense.

    And, Capuano said with a grin: “We’ve got to get him a driver’s license.”

    What you tend to forget is, no matter his size or genes or amazing maturity, this son of Mike Webster is still a kid.

    Who just lost his best friend.
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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Mike Webster's death triggers many fond memories

    Wednesday, September 25, 2002

    By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

    Quarterback Terry Bradshaw called his own plays in the 1970s, but it was center Mike Webster who called the audibles.

    Few knew how much Terry Bradshaw relied on Webster at the line of scrimmage, and for more than just his safety. (Associated Press)

    Long before they placed a speaker in the helmet so coaches could talk directly to their quarterbacks, Webster was Bradshaw's voice.

    "I'm not ashamed to say this," Bradshaw said yesterday from his home in Dallas. "When we came up to the line of scrimmage, how many times did Webby go, 'No, Brad, no!' Meaning, 'Get out, this won't work.'

    "I'm not kidding. 'No, no, no.' Blitzes and all. He would call all the Ls and Rs, lefts and rights. Chuck [Noll] really put a real big responsibility on him. I didn't have to fool with all that stuff.

    "I'd say, 'Mike what do we want to do here?'"

    Webster's death yesterday at age 50 after a heart attack left Bradshaw and many of his teammates saddened, yet they eagerly spun stories about the Hall of Famer they knew as Iron Mike, a tough and durable center who played more games than anyone else in Steelers history.

    Bradshaw, who rarely gives interviews to Pittsburgh writers, gladly came to the phone to talk about the man he presented for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

    "He was just so darn good," Bradshaw said. "He was fast -- snap and boom, gone. It was hard to take his snap. I had to really ride him and put a lot of pressure on him. His butt was so low to the ground, especially when he had someone over his head, he had a tendency to really got down low. Well, the lower he got the lower I got. I told everyone no wonder I couldn't read defenses, I was so low I was butting eyeballs.

    "I talked to him probably a year and a half ago. He seemed great, really happy about what he was doing. I checked on him. I called and he called me back. He seemed fine. All he wanted to do was talk about the kids. Then, he made fun of me, which he was always good at doing. I'd hear from him occasionally. I'd always get a little nervous because he has not been in good health. Every time I'd ask him, 'Are you OK?'

    'Oh, yeah, fine, Brad.'

    'Anything I can do?'

    'No no no no. You take care of those kids, you take care of those kids.'"

    Webster always had their backs, whether it was the future Hall of Fame quarterback or the new field manager. Rodgers Freyvogel was hired in the summer of 1980 to replace Jack Hart, who quit after a dispute with some players. That's when Freyvogel met Iron Mike.

    "He said, come here, I want to tell you something," said Freyvogel, now the equipment manager. "If any of these ballplayers screw with you, you come to me because they're not going to do to you what they did to the last guy. He got up in front of all the players and said that new guy, don't screw with him like you did the other guy. He told everybody, and there's not one guy who did."

    Running back Merril Hoge, drafted in 1987, played two seasons with Webster but quickly grasped his reputation. He was his roommate his rookie season, and the Steelers' final exhibition game was on a Saturday night in New York. The players were allowed to sleep in Saturday morning at their hotel near Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Not Hoge.

    "My man was up at 5 a.m.," Hoge recalled of Webster. "He flipped the curtains open, looked out the window and said, 'Now, this is a cesspool.' He turned to me and said, 'What do you want for breakfast?'

    "I said, 'I'd like about three more hours if you don't mind.'

    "He flipped on the TV, ate breakfast and said, 'I'm going to work out.' There was no day off, no hour off, no minute off, no second off for that man. He just formulated habits. That was nothing different for Mike Webster than the average American getting up and having a cup of coffee. It's part of what he was and what he had to do to be great."

    The Steelers were not so great in the two years Hoge played with Webster. They were 8-7 and missed the playoffs in 1987, a strike year. They were 5-11 in 1988, their worst season since Noll's first in 1969. Webster, though, did nothing differently.

    "In my opinion, Webby was an extension of Chuck Noll," Hoge said. "He was our Jack Lambert on the offensive side. You wouldn't know if you lost or won with him. It didn't affect him in the sense of how he prepared and how he put it in perspective. That doesn't mean he didn't like losing. But he was great at putting it in perspective."

    Tackle Larry Brown played in the same line with Webster in the 1970s and said no one could keep up with him.

    "I never saw anyone work as hard as Mike. He was so dedicated and serious at what he was doing. He was totally involved. He would outwork anybody I know that I've ever been around."

    Tunch Ilkin came to the Steelers in 1980 and served as the backup center to Webster in his early years. That job was like the Maytag Repairman. Ilkin never played until he moved to tackle.

    "The toughness he had, the fact he would play hurt. He was a standard," Ilkin said. "We'd get dinged up and we'd go, 'Well, Webby would play.' Even after he was gone. He missed four games with a dislocated elbow and the next year I dislocated mine and I said, 'How many games did Webby miss?' He was just so competitive, so tough, we all wanted to emulate him."

    Webster had to deal with rumors of steroids use and, after his retirement, stories about his decline physically and mentally. Ilkin, though, remembers the Webster who was chairman of Spina Bifida in Western Pennsylvania and how he helped kids.

    "He was so willing to give himself in the community and to give of himself to his teammates," Ilkin said.

    He even inspired some newer Steelers who never played with him. Tight end Mark Bruener joined the team in 1995 and first met Webster five years ago.

    "He really touched me," Bruener said. "He was a special man. For some reason, I asked for an autograph, and he signed a picture to me. I have three in my trophy case -- Muhammad Ali, Dan Marino and Mike Webster. I'll always remember what he wrote: 'Mark, you are special, Mike Webster.' I look at it all the time. I'm very sad to see him go. It's sad he wasn't able to live life to its fullest."

    He did on the football field. When Bradshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he said in his speech, "What I wouldn't give to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt one more time!"

    Yesterday, Bradshaw said, "Now when I tell you one more time I'd like to put my hands under his butt I would. Now, I'll have to wait until heaven."
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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Mike Webster, Steelers Hall of Fame center, dies at 50

    Wednesday, September 25, 2002

    By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

    The news of Mike Webster's death hit Terry Bradshaw yesterday like one of his snaps -- hard and fast.

    The Hall of Fame quarterback, who presented Mr. Webster on the steps of Canton for the induction of the Steelers' center in 1997, last talked to his former teammate more than a year ago.

    "You knew he had problems," Bradshaw said from his Dallas home. "Dying was not something I had in mind."

    Mr. Webster, 50, whose toughness earned him the nickname "Iron Mike," died early yesterday morning in Allegheny General Hospital after a heart attack. His son, Garrett, said his father woke up Sunday morning feeling ill and felt sick off and on all day. He was taken to Sewickley Valley Hospital Sunday night, then transferred to AGH, where doctors told his son he had suffered a heart attack. He died after surgery.

    "Basically, from what I was told by the doctors, half of his heart was dead," Garrett said. "He went quietly. It was like he just went to sleep."

    Although Mr. Webster's health had deteriorated in recent years, his son said the former NFL star had had no previous heart problems. He was diagnosed with brain damage in 1999 from what doctors said were too many hits to the head playing football. Mr. Webster, separated from his family and homeless for a time after his retirement from football, also was put on probation in 1999 after he pleaded no contest to forging prescriptions for the drug Ritalin.

    "It's not the natural order," said Chuck Noll, Webster's Hall of Fame coach with the Steelers. "It's like losing a son or daughter. It's not supposed to be that way."

    "He was a great person and friend," said Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris. "Unfortunately, he had some turmoil and misfortune after his football career. He is now at peace."

    Mr. Webster, born March 18, 1952, in Tomahawk, Wis., earned four Super Bowl rings and played in nine Pro Bowls during a 17-year career and was voted to the NFL's all-time team in 2000. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, his second year of eligibility. He played in more games, 220, than any other player in Steelers history.

    "Mike was a symbol for our team," said Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene. "When you saw that Pittsburgh offense, he was the first one you saw running up to the line, fists pumping. They knew what they had to deal with right off with Mike."

    The Steelers drafted him on the fifth round in 1974, one of four future Hall of Famers in that class, the most by any team in NFL history. At 6 feet 2, he came out of the University of Wisconsin weighing 225 pounds and eventually grew to 260, anchoring an undersized offensive line that paved the way for Harris and provided the protection for Bradshaw and his two Hall of Fame receivers, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

    "He helped Terry Bradshaw very much," said Dan Rooney, also a Hall of Fame member. "Mike knew every player's position on both teams. He would talk to Terry after a play and say where the line splits were and where the defense was and what running plays would work particularly well."

    Mr. Webster's devotion to the game and his training routine were legendary. He split time at center with Ray Mansfield his first two seasons. He started the final game of 1975, the first of a string of 150 consecutive starts. It ended in 1986, when he missed the first four games of the season with a dislocated elbow injured in the preseason. They were the only games he missed in his first 16 seasons. He played in a team-record 15 seasons with the Steelers, retired to accept a coaching job with the Kansas City Chiefs, then unretired six weeks later to become the Chiefs' starting center in 1989. He played one more season before retiring for good.

    Mr. Webster not only played most games, he played most snaps, even in practice. He ran out of the tunnel into Three Rivers Stadium without ever wearing a long-sleeve shirt, displaying his bare muscular arms in his short-sleeve No. 52 Steelers jersey.

    "He would come in two hours before we had to be here and start lifting weights," said former Steelers tackle Tunch Ilkin, one of his closer friends from their playing days. "He'd come back form his seventh Pro Bowl in a row and he'd be running the steps at Three Rivers Stadium the first week back. His focus, his toughness. They said he didn't miss a game in 10 years; I don't think he missed a play in 10 years."

    Said former tackle Larry Brown: "I don't know when he didn't run those steps. Mike was just driven. You would just think, well that's enough work, and Mike would still find time to go beyond that. It was extraordinary. Anybody who played with him had to look at him in admiration and for inspiration."

    Mr. Webster served as a Steelers captain for nine years.

    "Mike was very much a leader by example," Noll said. "We had guys who were all mouth. Mike didn't say much, but what he did resonated ... loudly."

    Greene already had established his own reputation as a team leader when the undersized Mr. Webster arrived as a rookie in 1974.

    "Mike was a little guy with a big heart," said Greene, defensive line coach with the Arizona Cardinals. "He was always smart and quick, then he got strong. Ernie [Holmes] and I used to beat up on him in practice pretty good for the first couple years, then we couldn't do it anymore."

    His dedication to playing, however, irked some teammates when he became the Steelers' first union member to break ranks and join a patchwork group of replacement players for three strike games in 1987. He announced his retirement for the first time after that season after a dispute with the team over not paying him for the one game that was canceled by the strike. He unretired two days later and played one more season for the Steelers, 1988, before joining the Chiefs..

    The Steelers did not protect him in 1989 under the old Plan B free agency, and he retired and joined the Chiefs. as an assistant coach. They technically signed him as a free agent when they agreed with him that he could help them more by playing than coaching.

    The Chiefs made him an assistant strength and conditioning coach after his third and final retirement, and he lived in an area of the Chiefs' equipment room. Mr. Webster, though, drifted away from his job as he found life after football difficult both emotionally and physically. He lived the past few years in Moon with his son, Garrett, a senior at Moon High School.

    Kansas City President Carl Peterson stayed friendly with Mr. Webster and quietly helped him financially. Peterson remembers Mr. Webster fondly as someone who came into a young team and showed them what a winner looked like.

    "Mike always had time and concern for everyone else's problems, but never one of his own," Peterson said. "I think his legacy was and always will be that he's truly a team player."

    Mr. Webster's post-football decline into drug use and homelessness saddened those who knew him, especially his former teammates.

    Many tried to reach out and help, but Mr. Webster turned them away. Mr. Webster was supposed to be one of the honorary co-captains when the Steelers opened Heinz Field last season, but he failed to show for the game. Mr. Webster attended the Steelers Steelers' reunion for their Hall of Famers at Heinz Field in last July, but he declined to participate in the taping of it for television, preferring to stay out of the public eye.

    Former tackle Jon Kolb described Mr. Webster's death as "shocking, but not surprising."

    "We don't live forever, but some people you just kind of think are strong and will live forever, at least longer than you. He didn't miss games, didn't miss practices.

    "You get used to that kind of stuff, and then the reality sets in. Steve Courson had a birthday party for him about five yars years ago. Things seemed like on the upswing for him, but it was only temporary."

    Kolb, Ilkin, Brown, Bradshaw and most of his teammates prefer to remember Mr. Webster as the Iron Mike they knew they could always count counted on being to be there.

    "I remember seeing that on the banners in the stadium," Kolb said. "He had those huge arms. He'd play through injuries, and you'd see the highlight film and there would be Mike running with his lips fluttering, his motor always running."

    The motor stopped at 12:44 a.m. Monday.

    Mr. Webster is survived by two sons, Garrett, 17, and Colin, 23, a corporal in the U.S. Marines stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and two daughters Brooke, 25, and Hillary Webster, 15, of Madison, Wis.

    Visitation will be tomorrow from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30-8:30 p.m. at Somma Funeral Home, 5405 Steubenville Pike, Robinson. A funeral service will be there at 10 a.m. Friday.

    Donations can be made to the Webster Children's Fund, c/o Parkvale Savings, 1789 Pine Hollow Rd., McKees Rocks, 15136.
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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    ....and finally.........

    Steelers Hall of Fame center Webster dies at 50

    Tuesday, September 24, 2002

    By Alan Robinson, The Associated Press

    PITTSBURGH -- Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame center who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls and whose life spiraled into drug use and homelessness after he retired, died today at age 50.

    Webster died in the coronary care unit at Allegheny General Hospital, but the hospital did not announce a cause of death.

    His son, Garrett, told the Post-Gazette that his father apparently died of complications from a heart attack he suffered Sunday. Mike Webster was undergoing an operation Monday night in at AGH when he went into an induced coma, his son said.

    Known as "Iron Mike" for his toughness and durability, Webster widely was considered one of the game's greatest centers and he was voted in 2000 to the All-Time NFL Team.

    During his career from 1974-90, he made the Pro Bowl nine times and won the four Super Bowls in his first six seasons. But he also took many shots to the head, causing brain damage that wasn't diagnosed until 1999.

    When he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, Webster was separated from his wife and children. There also were reports he was heavily in debt, living in his car at times and was suffering from depression and memory loss.

    Recently, Webster was living in Moon with his son, Garrett, a senior lineman for Moon Area High School.

    "He was one of the main reasons why we won four Super Bowls. Unfortunately, he had some turmoil and misfortune after his football career," Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris said. "He is now at peace. We do miss and love Mike."

    "This is a sad day," Steelers president Dan Rooney said. "We are going to miss him a lot."

    Webster played six straight seasons without missing a down, anchoring a Steelers line that paved the way for Harris' numerous 1,000-yard seasons and protected Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

    "Mike was a symbol for our team," Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene said. "When you saw that Pittsburgh offense, he was the one you saw running up to the line, fists pumping. They knew what they had to deal with right off with Mike."

    Webster left the Steelers after the 1988 season, and played his final two years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    "Mike's toughness and unswerving dedication to excellence, often hidden by his quiet demeanor, inspired all who knew him," said John Bankert, executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Webster's doctors said several concussions damaged his frontal lobe, causing cognitive dysfunction. The progressively worsening injury caused him to behave erratically, and Webster briefly was homeless, sleeping in bus stations several times when he could not find somewhere to stay.

    He was placed on five years' probation in September 1999 in Beaver County after pleading no contest to forging prescriptions to obtain Ritalin, a drug commonly used to treat children with hyperactivity.

    Doctors said Webster's injuries were similar to a boxer's -- one said he was essentially "punch drunk" -- and affected his attention span, concentration and focus. They said the condition could not be cured and an operation would not improve his brain functions.

    In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week, Garrett Webster said his father sometimes couldn't get off the couch in the morning because he "feels so terrible."

    "My dad has some health problems no one knows about and that I don't want to get into that much," the son said. "But he has some brain injuries from football. I have to take care of my dad."

    Young Webster reacted to his father's death with a mixture of sorrow and relief.

    "I thought my whole world would come crashing down when he died. I felt that way my whole life," Garrett Webster told the Post-Gazette today "But I remember when he passed away, I wasn't even crying because I knew he was all right. It was almost as if this weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew he wouldn't feel bad any more. He'd be OK. And I knew that guy upstairs had Johnny U., Bob Hayes and my dad all together."

    Webster was born March 18, 1952, in Tomahawk, Wis., and went to the University of Wisconsin. As an undersized 225-pound center, he was taken by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 1974 draft, part of the best draft class in NFL history.

    The Steelers drafted four future Hall of Famers in the first five rounds -- Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Webster -- and they went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

    Webster initially split time with veteran Ray Mansfield, but in the final game of the 1975 season he began a string of 150 consecutive starts that lasted until he missed the final four games in 1986 with a dislocated elbow.

    A strong, punishing blocker and tireless worker whose ability to pull and trap meshed perfectly with Steelers coach Chuck Noll's running schemes, Webster was widely considered the strongest Steelers player. He won an NFL Strongman competition in 1980, after building his playing weight to 255 pounds.

    Former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier said that Bradshaw often allowed Webster to call plays in short-yardage situations.

    "He was very smart, a great technician," Noll said. "From the get-go, there was no question about his ability."

    Webster, a perennial All-Pro choice, was approached by several teams about becoming an assistant coach after his playing career ended in 1990 with the Chiefs. But his health and personal problems would soon begin.

    "Webby was the best ever," said Bradshaw, who presented Webster during his Hall of Fame induction.

    I hope you guys take the time to read on Webster and thanks for letting me post these articles here.......
    Last edited by ranrod7; Jan-29-2010 at 04:01 PM.
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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Thanks Randy. He special, no doubt about it. I met him once. Quiet, but you didn't sense that had that superior attitude about himself you see so often today.

    I liked the comment about him being the strongest man on the team and once won the NFL's Strongman contest when he "bulked up" to 255 lbs. Sadly he, like many others of that era (Lambert and Ham come to mind) probably would have a tough time handling the fat lards that play the game today.

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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Webster, along with John Kolb, were two of my favorite players from that era....
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: Mike Webster Tribute

    Had to read em all again....I really miss Mike Webster..........
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