View Full Version : Dying prof tackles final dream -- the NFL

10-04-2007, 06:46 AM
Dying prof tackles final dream -- the NFL
By Allison M. Heinrichs
Thursday, October 4, 2007

It wasn't quite playing in the National Football League, but to Randy Pausch it was close enough.
The Carnegie Mellon University professor who became a worldwide sensation last month after giving his "last lecture" about achieving childhood dreams, achieved his last dream on Wednesday: He practiced with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"This is great," said Pausch, 46, grinning from ear to ear as he sprinted out on the Steelers practice field in the South Side to catch some throws from wide receiver Hines Ward.

Pausch, who co-founded Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and created free software to encourage girls to get into computer science, expects to die in the next several months.

The father of three young children learned last year that he has pancreatic cancer and began a grueling treatment regimen. In August, he learned that the cancer was back and there was nothing more the doctors could do.
On Sept. 18, he told a capacity crowd of almost 400 people who gathered in Carnegie Mellon's biggest auditorium the story of how he went about achieving his childhood dreams of being in zero gravity, authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia, being Captain Kirk, winning the big stuffed animals at amusement parks and working for Disney. He also told about his dream of playing in the NFL.

"I did not make it to the National Football League, but I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish," he said during his lecture.

He went on to explain the lessons he learned from playing football as a kid -- chief among them that it isn't always bad when the coach is yelling at you because "when you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up."

Before the speech, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review chronicled his good-bye to friends and colleagues. Since then Pausch has been inundated with e-mails -- so many that Carnegie Mellon is hiring a temporary worker to help sort through them all.

"They range anywhere from people just wanting copies of the (speech), some wanting transcripts, to some people just wishing him well," said Cathy Ribarchak, a senior administrative associate at Carnegie Mellon who has helped process some of the e-mails. "They're coming from all over the world. There are some e-mails that are probably in Chinese or Japanese -- I can't even read them."

Among the comments:

? "This man makes me want to be a better person. I feel humbled."

? "I think the question we all have been asked, 'If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?' Without a doubt, I would choose the professor."

? "If I can just change someone's life like you have changed many, I will be thrilled."

Never in his wildest dreams did Pausch expect all the attention. In fact, he made a bet with friends that he wouldn't even be able to fill the 350-seat auditorium.

"It's very flattering and embarrassing," he said.

Beneath sunny skies yesterday, Pausch jumped and dove to snatch every single pass from Ward out of midair. Clad in a No. 86 jersey and navy blue shorts that showed off his skinny legs, he looked every bit the professor, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said his moves were respectable.

"You know, Hines doesn't have to worry about his job security, but (Pausch is) impressive," Tomlin said, adding that he, too, was inspired by Pausch's story.

After practice, Pausch visited the Steelers offices, where he met Chairman Dan Rooney and team President Art Rooney II. He spent a few quiet minutes with the Steelers' five Vince Lombardi trophies.

"I'm glad you came down," Dan Rooney said. "I saw you outside with all the guys -- you were great."

They chatted about Carnegie Mellon, the integrity with which Pausch believes the Rooneys run the Steelers organization and the Steelers' chances for a Super Bowl win this season.

"I'll make you guys a promise," Pausch said. "You get into that Super Bowl, I'll live to see it."

10-04-2007, 07:43 AM
PITTSBURGH - With the precision that any NFL wide receiver would admire, Randy Pausch ran a crisp pass route and then clasped his hands around the football in textbook fashion.

"The guy's a great athlete," said Hines Ward, the Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time leading receiver.

"He's inspiring," added coach Mike Tomlin.

Yes, Pausch sure was inspiring when he stopped by team headquarters for a dream workout with a few Steelers after Wednesday's practice.

A 46-year computer science professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pausch has inspired millions of Americans who've learned of story. One of the country's foremost authorities on virtual reality, Pausch is suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer. The father of three children, Pausch has been told he has between three to six months to live.

But even though he doesn't have much time left on this earth, he's still living life with an amazing zest. On Sept. 18, he delivered a heart-felt "last lecture" at CMU that's received nationwide media attention.

"I'm Randy's biggest cheerleader," said Diane Sawyer, the co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America" show who was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to document Pausch's visit with the Steelers.

Sawyer's piece on Pausch will run on ABC's "20-20" news magazine show possibly as early as Friday night.

"What an excellent man he is," Steelers owner Dan Rooney said of Pausch. "I was very much impressed by him."

The Steelers invited Pausch to their facility after learning that one of his childhood dreams was to play in the NFL. More recently, one of his dreams has been to practice with the Steelers.

When he arrived at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, Pausch wore a black Steelers jersey, the same kind worn by his favorite player, No. 86, Hines Ward.

"How about that? Randy had my jersey on," Ward said. "What an honor."

After the Steelers finished practice around 3 p.m., Pausch walked onto the field where he met with Ward, Tomlin, running back Willie Parker and kicker Jeff Reed. He ran two pass routes and caught both passes thrown to him by Ward, who occasionally played quarterback during his college days at the University of Georgia. Pausch then kicked a field goal after a long snap from tight end Jerame Tuman and a hold by punter Dan Sepulveda.

"It was awesome meeting Randy," Tomlin said. "I admire him. He's so inspiring. He has an understanding that every day is a blessing. He's still living life to the fullest."

"I can't imagine what it would be like to hear a doctor say you only have a certain of time to live," Ward said. "So to see Randy out here and to see how he's dealing with this, man, this was just a big moment for me. I mean, he's still enjoying life.

"What a thrill it was for me to throw him those passes. What a thrill it was to see him make that field goal. He gave me inspiration to go out and live every day to the fullest."

After his workout, Pausch stopped by the Steelers' locker room and got to meet several other players. He then toured the rest of the Steelers' two-story complex and got to meet Rooney.

The Steelers' communications department refused to allow Pausch to be interviewed. But Pausch did say that he was proud to be able to visit with the Steelers because "they have always won the right way. It's a great organization that believes in core values. The Steelers have always believed in doing things the right way. It starts at the top. The Rooneys are incredible. They have a reputation that's really deserved.

"If I had a football team, I'd want to run it half as well as the Rooneys do."

Before he left team headquarters, Pausch was stopped by Tomlin and told that he had an open invitation to return whenever he wanted to.

"Randy, you don't need Diane Sawyer to come back," Tomlin said. "Come back any time you want."

?Beaver County Times Allegheny Times 2007


Atlanta Dan
10-04-2007, 08:16 AM
Here is a link to the Walll Street Journal article on his farewell lecture (with video) - pretty inspiring stuff


10-04-2007, 09:03 AM
WOW! I got chills reading those articles and watching the video clips of Professor Pausch's farewell lecture. What a truly inspiring and courageous man. :cheers:

Thank you Perry and Dan for the great articles and links. :thumbsup: Really makes you re-assess what really is important in life. God bless him and his family.

10-04-2007, 09:16 AM
Very, very cool.

10-04-2007, 02:32 PM
it really is a shame that it takes a man facing death for the world to pay attention to a good man.

My hat is off to him and to the Steelers who took the time to help him fulfill a dream.

10-04-2007, 04:02 PM
Great post. I'm touched by this man's attitude and courage. What an amazing person he is.

10-04-2007, 04:54 PM
Thanks for posting that. I'll be sure to look for his segment on 20/20 tomorrow night. God bless Randy and his family - he's truly an inspiration. It has to be hard to stare death in the face, yet continue to live each day to its fullest.

10-04-2007, 06:45 PM
Inpirational story, despite the fact that he's (presumably) a Steeler fan.

10-05-2007, 11:40 AM
Great story. It would be great if a dvd of his speech was available somewhere....off to look.

Atlanta Dan
10-05-2007, 11:43 AM
Great story. It would be great if a dvd of his speech was available somewhere....off to look.

If you go to the Wall Street Journal article I linked, they have not only their video summary but a link to the CMU website that has the complete lecture

10-07-2007, 07:02 PM
"I'll make you guys a promise," Pausch said. "You get into that Super Bowl, I'll live to see it."

I would love for him to see that.