View Full Version : Five minutes with a legend: John Stallworth

10-19-2009, 07:07 PM
Five minutes with a legend: John Stallworth
Posted Oct. 16, 2009 @ 9:52 a.m.
By Mike Beacom

The biggest bargain of the Steelers' legendary 1974 NFL draft class might have been Alabama A&M WR John Stallworth, who landed in Round Four (pick No. 82). In 14 NFL seasons, Pittsburgh's No. 82 collected 537 receptions and 8,723 yards. His finest day was, perhaps, Super Bowl XIV in which he caught a 73-yard middle-of-the-field bomb from QB Terry Bradshaw that gave the Steelers the lead for good over the Rams, and earned a fourth championship ring for Stallworth and his teammates. Some of Stallworth's best years, though, came after the Steelers' dominance; in 1984, at the age of 32 and fresh off an injury the year before, Stallworth posted career numbers (80 catches for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns). In his life after football Stallworth has built a highly successful engineering company, and is involved in a number of philanthropic efforts. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

A lot of the guys from those Super Bowl teams were gone in 1984. Looking back on that season, are you surprised by the success you had at that point in your career?

I'm never surprised when I catch the football (laughs). The year before I was injured. When you get an injury, at that point in your career, a lot of people start asking questions: can he still do it? Is it all over? As you mentioned, a lot of the guys on the team had gone and maybe there were thoughts that I ought to be one of them. I think it was determination to address the naysayers, the folks saying I didn't have it anymore. And it was about keeping that focus throughout that year. But, looking back over my career, my career has kind of been like (that year). Coming from a small school, I had a lot of people telling me 'You can't do this, can't do that.' It's happened during my business career when people said 'You just play football, you can't start an engineering firm.' That's always an incentive for me, and the '84 season was indicative of that.

Your football career has made you famous around the globe. People know those Steelers teams and they know John Stallworth. But is it more satisfying, somehow, to have the success you've had in business because of the perceptions people have about football players?

I can say it's more satisfying, but it is equally satisfying. I had a great career playing football and I certainly do not want to belittle that experience, but the way the business career has gone has been very satisfying. It was picking up something new, not something I had done all my life.

A lot of the great Packers players of the 1960s were successful business guys. Can you say the same about how your business career was built on football lessons, and from what you learned from Coach (Chuck) Noll?

No question, and Chuck was a big part of it, also what I saw from the Rooney family. You were more than just a number to them, you felt like you had an important role in the organization when you talked to the Chief, Art Rooney Sr., and that trickled down to his sons Dan, and now to Art II. That feeling that everybody is important to the business is something I've tried to carry with me.

Ever get in (Terry) Bradshaw's ear about being open, like viewers see today wide receivers doing each Sunday?

Yeah, I was always in his ear, but so was (Lynn) Swann, and so was Franco (Harris). ... And Bradshaw, to his credit, was open to those conversations. But it was never a shouting match because I wasn't getting the football, like you might see on T.V. today. It was a team environment, and we were always looking to do what was best for the team.

Of the five wide receivers to have been named Super Bowl MVP, three are Steelers (Swann, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes). Does it bother you that, for the couple of big games you had in the Super Bowl you never were named its MVP?

I don't really dwell on that. It would have been nice, but it didn't happen. I'm more proud of the team performances we had in some of those playoff games, and I'm happy for the guys who did win because they were all deserving.

Earlier this year you were part of a group that joined the Steelers' ownership. Talk about what that experience has been like for you.

It's a great situation to be in, but I'll be honest, I never thought about it until I was presented with the proposal. I'm excited. You always like to be involved with well-run organizations, and with the Rooneys (running the team) I expect the organization will continue to do well and to grow.