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Old 12-04-2010, 08:03 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Steelers players relish quality time with local soldiers

Steelers players relish quality time with local soldiers
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...nt_712219.html
By Karen Price
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 4, 2010

The video game guitar looked absurdly small strapped across Troy Polamalu's body.

The Steelers safety grinned and nodded at his bandmates, all U.S. Army service members, as they got ready to rock out to the Guitar Hero version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."

Twelve feet to their right, offensive tackle Max Starks played Call of Duty: Black Ops against a pair of soldiers stationed in Baghdad. Center Maurkice Pouncey, fresh off taking a stab at the drums on "Free Ride" by Jefferson Airplane, signed footballs and posed for pictures.

"(The drums) got the best of me, man, they really did," Pouncey said. "I didn't know it was that hard."

Most players leave the team's South Side training facility early on Fridays, but yesterday was different. It was the Pro vs. GI Joe event, which brought troops from the Army's 316th ESC, based in Coraopolis, soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait and their families together with members of the Steelers to play video games and hang out.

It was hard to tell who was more impressed, the pros or the GI Joes.

"I'm here to enjoy being with these people," Pouncey said. "I've never done anything like this, but it's exciting, it's something I'll remember. These people go and give their lives for us every day, and to get to hang out with them is crazy. It's exciting."

The Pro vs. GI Joe organization was founded three years ago by Greg Zinone, of Irvine, Calif., and his wife, Addie. She was in the military and had deployed overseas several times, and Zinone, who played football at West Virginia in 1996, knew how much he and his former teammates liked to play video games. An idea was born, and they now do an event a week during the NFL season.

"The big thing about our event is that you're just hanging out with the guys," Zinone said. "It's not like a handshake tour or an autograph session. All the players take off their jerseys at the door and the military guys strip their ranks, and they're all just regular guys hanging out, all together."

Khrysta Brown, 22, an Army PFC from Monroeville who's attending La Roche College, was lead vocalist while Pouncey was on the drums.

"It was fun," she said. "I'm not that good, but we won, so I'm glad. (Pouncey) was sweating, though, so I guess it's not easy."

This was the second year in a row that Eric Wolfe, 29, got to play video games against members of his favorite team.

Only last year, he was in Iraq.

Wolfe suffered a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device and is now involved with the Pro vs. GI Joe Rehabbing with the Troops program. The Navy and Army veteran, who suffers from vision and hearing loss as well as headaches and other neurological complications from his injury, traveled from his home in Richmond, Va., with his 9-year-old son and a neighbor to be part of the event.

"You feel normal," he said of having the experience last year while deployed. "I was there a total of nine months, and when you're getting shot at and rocketed two or three times a week, this is a welcome change. To be able to go in there and. ... it was the Steelers, man. I love the Steelers. It was very uplifting and kept me excited."

Back in the musical corner of the room, Polamalu wrapped up the final notes with a, "Woo! We rocked it out!" then was off to talk via computer to the troops stationed overseas.

"I just like hanging out with these guys," Polamalu said later. "They're the real American heroes, they're the real celebrities in this country, and they're the guys who should be making the multi-million dollar contracts and getting all the publicity. Unfortunately it's not that way. ... I'm just appreciative of all these guys and women."

Karen Price can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com or 412-320-7980.
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