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I-Want-Troy's-Hair
04-09-2008, 01:32 AM
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08100/871612-66.stm

Haselrig going to extreme in fight to turn life around

Carlton Haselrig's fairy tale Pro Bowl career with the Steelers and the NFL ended in a drug-and-alcohol haze in the 1990s, through mysterious disappearances from his teams and with multiple stays in various jails.

"You're going to wind up dead," former Steelers executive Tom Donahoe once told him.

A former wife feared that one day "I'll get a call to come bury him."

Today, not only is Carlton Haselrig still alive at age 42, but he literally will be kicking when he fights for two heavyweight championship belts in one of the increasingly popular ultimate fighting competitions. His bout takes place April 19 at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City against veteran Shane Ott, 35. At stake are championships of the United States Kick Boxing Association and Battle Cage Xtreme.

It will be Haselrig's first professional fight, but certainly not his first comeback. Haselrig has staged more comebacks than Sugar Ray Leonard -- only his have come in the ring of life.

This latest, eight months after his recent one-year stint in jail on a domestic conviction, will be the real deal, he promised.

The only six-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion and still considered by many as the second-best guard behind Alan Faneca in Steelers history, Haselrig counts his latest chance at redemption among the most important of his life.

"It ranks pretty high up there right now, just because it's a big event in my life," he said yesterday. "It's something I always wanted to do, since [Ultimate Fighting Championship] first came out.

"I'm not going to let anything hold me back any more. I'm thankful and grateful for the opportunity and I'm thankful the good Lord let me stay around to do it."

Remarried with five children at home and nine in all, the Johnstown native and resident said he had an epiphany during his most recent stay in jail.

"I got into trouble a few years ago, and I was put away for a little bit," said Haselrig, employed between workouts, taking inventory for a Johnstown retail store. "While I was away, I got to thinking about some things, about getting back into condition and back into what I like to do.

"I made a plan, I sat down and wrote the plan down and I'm sticking to the plan and mapping out the future to stick to it, to show I can do it and show other people I can do it. The main thing I'm trying to do is be a good father, provide for my family and set an example."

Anyone familiar with Haselrig's athletic career would have little reason to doubt what he can accomplish -- barring relapses with drugs and alcohol.

"The Amazing Carlton Haselrig," Pat Pecora, Pitt-Johnstown's wrestling coach the past 32 seasons, calls him.

Pecora coached Haselrig to NCAA Division I and II heavyweight wrestling championships three times each in the 1980s. Those six titles were unprecedented and will remain so since the NCAA no longer allows wrestlers to compete in both division tournaments. He was a Pennsylvania heavyweight champion at Greater Johnstown High School when the Trojans did not have a wrestling team.

UPJ did not have a football team, but the Steelers took a flyer on Haselrig by drafting him in the 12th round in 1989. He blossomed into a dominating Pro Bowl guard before alcohol and drugs -- substance abuse ran in his family -- took their hold. He went AWOL from the Steelers a few times. The Jets signed him in 1995 after his release from the Steelers, and he went AWOL from them that fall and received a one-year suspension by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. It was his second league suspension.

He never played again, although he tried coaching semi-pro football in Pittsburgh for a bit in the early part of this decade.

Over the years, he spent time in the Betty Ford Clinic, among others, and "four or five" stints in jail for various infractions ranging from DUI to domestic abuse and probation violation to even riding a motorcycle with his helmet on backward, drunk.

"I feel that's behind me," Haselrig declared yesterday. "During my time away, this time, I really sat down and made a plan. I worked on myself and a lot of things I need to take care of. I took a long hard look at myself, where I'd been and where I'd gone, too. It's not something I enjoyed, having my children visit me in prison. It was not so much a wake-up call, just staring at reality. It was time to put those childish things away and be the man I'm supposed to be."

He says he has been given another chance that two former teammates of his, both offensive linemen, were not afforded. Justin Strzelczyk and Terry Long died young under mysterious circumstances, Strzelczyk inexplicably racing his vehicle to a fiery crash in the wrong lane on a New York interstate highway and Long committing suicide.

"I remember when he was in his 20s and I took him to his first alcohol and drug rehab place," said Pecora, who has coached 16 national champions and 121 All-Americans at Pitt-Johnstown. "He was with the Steelers. I talked to the doctor there, a guy in his early 60s.

"I said, 'Doc, how long will it take?' He said, 'How old is he?' I said, 'In his 20s.' The first words out of his mouth were, 'I've never seen anybody beat it in their 20s, and it's rare if they do so in their 30s. If he makes it to his 40s, he has a chance, but he'll probably ruin his life many times in between.'

"What I'm saying right now is he has a chance; he made it to his 40s."

Pecora invited Haselrig, who has been training in an Altoona gym, to work out with some of his collegiate wrestlers. Pecora believes Haselrig's in great shape at 6 feet 1, 265 pounds, which is 30 pounds under his football playing weight.

"He can scare you," Pecora said. "At 42, the guy is a physical specimen when it comes to that kind of athletic strength. He's so strong, he does things I've never seen anybody do."

Ultimate fighting, though, is a different animal. Haselrig has proven, dominant wrestling moves. But this newer sport involves kicking, punching, ju-jitsu and other maneuvers he hasn't experienced much. Fighters wear open-fingered gloves. His co-managers are Joel Harden and Rob Farmer, the latter a friend of 26 years from Johnstown.

"I'm looking to go to the top," said Haselrig, who certainly has experienced the bottom. "I'm looking to be the world's greatest [Mixed Martial Arts] fighter. I want to be world champ. I have the opportunity, now it's in my hands, now all I have to do is go fight. That's the part I like best; I control my own destiny, same thing as wrestling."

stlrtruck
04-09-2008, 08:45 AM
It will be interesting to see how he does.

I would like to see him win it. To be able to say, "I've been there, done that, and beat it" (speaking of the alcohol & drug abuse). That would give him an awesome testimony.

Elvis
04-20-2008, 07:25 PM
:thumbsup: I agree stlrtruck... I remember this guy playing for us and being a pretty darn good player... too bad he let the drugs and alcohol ruin his life, but I am very proud of him and just remember this young guy in your prayers.. with gods' help he will stay clean..

stlrtruck
04-21-2008, 08:49 AM
Does ayoe know how he did in the fight? I didn't get to watch it.

revefsreleets
04-21-2008, 09:04 AM
He was a bright spot on some otherwise fairly dismal teams. God knows we don't need another dead lineman from Pittsburgh...I'm glad to see him trying to turn things around.

CanadianSteel
04-21-2008, 11:43 AM
Not that I am a huge fan of MMA, but I read that he won the fight, defeating Shane Ott.