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Old 01-29-2011, 11:08 PM   #1
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Default Starkey: Lost loved ones on Steelers' minds

Starkey: Lost loved ones on Steelers' minds
By Joe Starkey
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Soaring spirits often are accompanied by heavy hearts. That is why people cry at weddings, I suppose, and that is the paradox likely to play out for several Steelers on Super Sunday.

These men will realize a dream when they run out of the Cowboys Stadium tunnel for the biggest football game in the world.

"Words can't describe it," receiver Hines Ward says.

By the time Christina Aguilera belts out the first note of the national anthem, adrenaline will be flowing like Niagara Falls though the players' bodies. But for some, the rush will be tempered by a gnawing emptiness. They will feel the absence of those who could not be there to enjoy the moment with them.

You know the "L" sign running back Isaac Redman made with his left hand after he scored the winning touchdown at Baltimore? That was for Leroy Scott, his recently deceased cousin who was like an older brother/father to him when they lived in the same household in Paulsboro, N.J.

Redman's mother and her sister were the adults, raising six children. Leslie Redman was a housekeeper at Rowan University. She worked the early morning shift (still does) and made sure the children got to their after-school activities.

Scott helped look after little Isaac, seven years younger.

"If anybody was messing with me, he'd step in," Redman said. "If I needed money, I'd go to him. If I needed to talk, talk to him. He kind of raised me."

That is why the call Redman received in November of last season was so crushing. His shaken mother told him that Scott, 32, had been killed in a one-car accident.

"I was really messed up," Redman said.

It meant a lot when coach Mike Tomlin stepped in. Redman was on the practice squad at the time.

"Coach said, 'Be with your family,' " Redman recalled. "That shows you the bond he has with his players. It just so happened his cousin had passed away the same night as mine. He understood."

A year later, Redman is a key contributor to a Super Bowl team. Not bad for an undrafted player out of Bowie State. His aunt Scott's mother called the other day to tell him how proud she was.

Redman just wishes Scott could be in Dallas with him.

"Every time I go out on the field," he said, "I pray and talk to God and ask him to look over him. "

Many of Redman's teammates are dealing with sudden and tragic losses as well. Kicker Shaun Suisham's mother-in-law, Gloria Croley, died of a heart attack in November, a week after turning 60. Left tackle Jonathan Scott's father, Ray a ninth-round pick of the Jets in 1967 died last year at age 66 after complications from back surgery.

"I think about it every day," Scott said.

Across the locker room sits veteran special teams ace Arnaz Battle, who made three tackles against the Jets last weekend. On his left shoulder, Battle wears a tattoo of a young boy his brother, Brandon, who was 3 when he drowned in 1989.

Son of former NFL tight end Ron Battle, Arnaz was a star 9-year-old tailback in Shreveport, La., when the tragedy occurred. Family had convened at Battle's grandmother's house after a game when Brandon slipped out of sight and into her pool.

Battle said his brother's spirit will be alive in him next Sunday. But then, it's alive in him every day.

"It's always an inspiration," he said. "It makes you realize tomorrow is not guaranteed and you need to embrace your loved ones."

Battle then took a look around the locker room. He spent seven hard years in San Francisco, fighting injuries as he tried to carve a long-term niche at receiver. Until two weeks ago, he'd never experienced a playoff game.

"I've come a long ways, been through a lot, which a lot of people in this room have," he said. "The reason I continue to grind is to provide for my family and I don't take anything for granted. This is a blessing, playing in this game."

What a rush, to play in the Super Bowl. But these gladiators are only human, which means their Battle scars go with them.

Joe Starkey can be reached at jraystarkey@gmail.com or .

Read more: Starkey: Lost loved ones on Steelers' minds - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1CUa2uIrv
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