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Old 12-02-2006, 05:04 AM   #1
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Default Prisuta: Steelers recall coming home

Prisuta: Steelers recall coming home

By Mike Prisuta
Saturday, December 2, 2006

When Steelers safety Mike Logan experienced the type of professional homecoming Bruce Gradkowski is about to, it almost led to a home-wrecking.

Logan, a McKeesport High School product, was in just his second NFL season when he returned to Pittsburgh with the Jacksonville Jaguars in November 1998.

The occasion pitted family against loyalty in the Logan clan.

"All my family was up in the stands, I had to get like 60 tickets," Logan said. "And my uncles and aunts are die-hard Steelers fans, and they could give a hell about who I played for. They wanted me to do well personally but they wanted my team to lose.

"My father was the one who got all the tickets and he said, 'If y'all are going to be at this game, y'all are going to be cheering for my son.' It kind of caused some conflict in the family."

Logan eventually signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 2001.

"After I came home it made those Sundays a lot easier," Logan said.

Gradkowski, a Seton-La Salle graduate, is poised to become the latest former WPIAL star to hit the big time in Pittsburgh when he leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Steelers on Sunday.

It'll be just his ninth NFL start and one Gradkowski likely will never forget.

"Playing against his hometown team will be a special moment for him," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who knows the feeling firsthand. "It's a great story.

"To be able to come back to your hometown where your family's at and to be able to walk onto the field where you probably attended games as a kid, it definitely is a special time and you always remember that."

Cowher recalls becoming a lot more popular among his teammates upon returning to Three Rivers Stadium as a linebacker with the Cleveland Browns.

"I had a lot of friends because they used to be able to keep their meal money, I'd have 'em all come over to (his parents') house for dinner," Cowher said.

Heinz Field has only been open since 2001, Gradkowski's freshman season at Toledo.

The Steelers no longer play at Three Rivers Stadium, as they did while Gradkowski was growing up.

But they're still the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that should be enough to tug at Gradkowski's heartstrings.

"You have your little moment sitting down stretching, just kind of realizing where you came from, from being a kid to realizing your dream," Steelers guard Alan Faneca said.

Faneca had his in 2002, the only time the Steelers have played in his native New Orleans in his nine NFL seasons.

"It was a big deal, man. I rented a suite," Faneca said. "I never played (on the Superdome's field), but I had been on it as a kid. My mom was a band director at a junior high that had played a couple of city championships down there, so I was down on the field when I was in elementary school."

When he was in junior high, Faneca and his father had Saints season tickets.

When he was a fifth-year pro, Faneca didn't merely attend a Saints game, he played in one.

Wide receiver Hines Ward, a native of Forest Park, Ga., and like Faneca a ninth-year pro, didn't get to play in Atlanta until this season.

Some NFL players never get the chance to experience what Gradkowski is about to as a rookie.

"When you get to come back home and you see your family up in the stands, see your friends, the people you care about most seeing you succeed and doing what you want to do, it makes it all worthwhile," Logan said. "It's really storybook."

Added Faneca: "When it's your dream to play football as a kid, that's what you know, your home team and your hometown. To come back to it brings you back to being a kid a little bit, it brings back those emotions."

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