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mesaSteeler
04-07-2009, 11:40 PM
Ilkin steps into limelight through public speaking
By ALLEN SEYBERT aseybert@timesobserver.com
POSTED: April 6, 2009
http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/514848.html?nav=5010

As an NFL interior lineman, former Pittsburgh Steelers pro bowler Tunch Ilkin made a career staying out of the spotlight.

Now - 16 years after his NFL career came to a close - Ilkin has stepped into the limelight as a motivational public speaker and color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers Broadcasting Network.

On Tuesday, the two-time NFL pro bowler will make his second trip to Warren in the past two years when he speaks at the Struthers Library Theatre in Warren, beginning at 7 p.m. The doors to the event open at 6:20 p.m. for ticketholders and will be open to those without tickets at 7 p.m. Non ticketholders will only be permitted provided seats remain available.

Ilkin will speak to the crowd at Struthers about the importance of men's fellowship and togetherness. The talk will be the latest in a career of public speaking that Ilkin admits started "by accident" shortly after his sports career in Pittsburgh began.

"When you're a pro athlete in a community such as Pittsburgh or anywhere in Northwestern Pennsylvania really, you get asked to speak at a number of events," said Ilkin. "I've spoken at youth groups, sports banquets, graduations, church services - pretty much any event you can think of. It's something that I've been extremely privileged to do and something I enjoy quite a bit."

Ilkin has also been able to turn his time and interactions with the media and public into a career after his playing days came to an end after the 1993 NFL season.

"I majored in radio and television during my time at Indiana State and I always thought it might be something I'd want to try when I got out of the game," said Ilkin. "Even then, I didn't know how realistic of a goal a career in broadcasting would be."

After concluding the 1993 NFL season in Green Bay, Ilkin returned home to the Pittsburgh area where he immediately began contemplating his future in pro football.

"I was in that in between phase where I didn't know if I wanted to play a 15th season in the NFL or decide to retire and move on to the next phase in my life," said Ilkin. "As fate would have it, my next step was mapped out for me."

During the offseason, former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Mark Malone was offered an analyst position at ESPN. Malone accepted the job, leaving a position open at WPXI Channel 11 in Pittsburgh.

"They called me in and we did a test show that went very well," said Ilkin. "They offered me the job and I really started praying to God to help make the right decision as to whether return to the NFL or accept the television position."

At about that same time, Ilkin and his wife Sharon were offered positions as youth pastors at their church.

"I really felt that God was guiding me and leading me to take the opportunity," said Ilkin. "At that time, I decided to hang up the cleats and follow this new path."

Ilkin progressed quickly and began calling NFL broadcasts for NBC a short time later. That job ended when CBS acquired the rights to AFC games after the 1997 season. However, another former Steelers teammate's departure from a local media outlet again opened a door for Ilkin.

"Merril Hoge left Fox Sports Net for a job at ESPN and I began doing the Steelers Report on their broadcasts," he said.

That transitioned into his current gig as color analyst for Steelers radio broadcasts.

The radio job keeps Ilkin busy during the football season, but it's his career in public speaking that chews up the majority of his offseason.

"I'm so thankful for what I've been able to do in my life," said Ilkin. "I get to do some cool things and meet some amazing people along the way. I'm truly blessed."

The night with Ilkin begins with a private reception in the Library Room of the Theatre at 6 p.m.

In addition to the talk from Ilkin - which will include stories about his playing days with the Steelers as well as his experiences playing in the Super Bowl - five autographed footballs will be given away during the reception and five more will be raffled off to the general public. Two seats to two Steelers preseason games will also be raffled off with all proceeds benefiting Warren County sports programs.