As a massive Pittsburgh homer, I had to wave the white flag on this one. Oh, and that is me above, for those of you wondering what I look like. This warm weather gave me a rash.
A while back, Pittsburgh City Paper Sports Editor and mini horse-lover Jody DiPerna emailed PSaMP and several other local sportsblogs with a question for an article. That article ran last week. I meant to link to it earlier, but I got sidetracked.
I often find myself venting about teams/players that I hate. The Patriots, Ray Lewis, yada, yada, yada. As a change of pace, I am working on a column about players/teams/coaches that Steelers fans actually like.
My own personal list includes but is not limited to, Jeff Fisher, Steve McNair (kills me that he signed on with Baltimore), Frank Gore, Steve Smith, John Fox, Brian Dawkins, [Mack] Strong and Vince Young.
Are there players that you root for despite the uniform?
As a matter of fact, the answer to that question is yes. It's hard to have positive feelings towards opponents, especially when all I want is for my team to succeed. For whatever reason, I am able to push my homer mentality to the background and appreciate certain players for certain reasons. Here was my list.
I've always had several players in mind that I've always liked, no matter the team. Actually, I'm cool with everyone on your list, save for McNair and Jeff Fisher. I still can't let the old AFC Central rivalry with the Oilers/Titans die, and the McNair/Fisher combo killed me. I''ve softened on Fisher since they changed divisions, but I still can't stand McNair.
I was pleased to see you like Frank Gore. He's one of the guys I've always liked. Even back from his days at the U. I mean, he played with Najeh Davenport, Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis. He seemed to have the least amount of spotlight during his time at Miami, and I liked that underdog mentality. I thought he could succeed in the NFL, but not nearly at the level in which he currently is dominating.
And Dawkins...awesome. That guy might be the scariest player in the entire NFL. He can hit, intercept and cover like a beast. I got nothing but love for the inter-state rival, and Dawkins epitomizes their defense. Even when their D struggles, Dawkins doesn't let down.
Chad Johnson. Although I might be exposing a crack in my Steelers-homerism, I love Chad Johnson. What he brings to the NFL is outstanding. In today's NFL, there are 2 polar opposites. At one end, we have the Pacman Joneses, who push the envelope too far. The other end houses Roger Goodell and his firm-fisted, bland NFL. Chad sits somewhere in the middle, but with a little lean towards the Pacmans. I never expect Chad to go to extremes, and everything he does is in sheer fun. Even when he claimed that he and Joey Porter were going to fight before a game, we knew he was playing. Chad and Joey are friends, and were creating a playful level of interest in the game.
Any of the Browns...kidding.
Larry Johnson. I've never been down with the "you have to be a Pitt or Penn State fan. Not both" argument. I like both teams. LJ tore up Happy Valley, and I hoped the Steelers would've drafted him when he declared. However, the Steelers had a better record than the Chiefs that year, and ended up trading up with KC to get Troy Polamalu. The Chiefs used the Steelers' former pick to get LJ. I knew he would be available if we didn't trade up, and thought he could be the heir to The Bus. However, everything works out for a reason. LJ has his multi-year extension in KC, the Steelers locked up Troy, and Willie Parker is looking good as the heir apparent.
Randy Moss. I don't know what it is. People hate him because he doesn't put full effort into every game. However, his first 4 or 5 seasons were the best start to a career by any wide receiver. Ever. His talent is unmatched in the league. Its easy to look at a guy's faults, but I'd rather look at talent. Moss is unbelievable.
LaDainian Tomlinson. He went to TCU. He wasn't a Longhorn or a Gator or a Trojan or a member of the Crimson Tide. He was a Horned Frog. Enough said.
Vernon Davis. I hope this love of current 49ers doesn't jinx the Steelers this weekend. However, in his final year at Maryland, I picked him as my darkhorse Heisman favorite at the beginning of the season. None of my friends knew who I was talking about. He was still going by the name Duke Davis at the time, and couldn't be tackled. Then, he ran some incredible time in the 40 at the combine and blew people's minds. In time, he will be a force in the NFL, and will be Alex Smith's security blanket.
Tatum Bell. He has Barry Sanders-esque moves. Plus, he came up in Mike Shananhan's system. Mike Shanahan has proven himself to be able to take unknown RBs and make them stars. He might never reach his full potential, but I always find myself supporting him.
Jason Campbell. Loved him at Auburn. I didn't know if he'd make it in the NFL, to be honest. I thought he could be a third stringer or even a practice squad guy, so I have nothing but respect for the guy now that he's Washington's #1. He kinda reminds me of Big Ben, in that he's not asked to do too much. You won't see him throw for 400 yards a game, but he's good at what he does. Also, sticking with Washington, I like Mark Brunell. Sure, I don't like McNair because of the old AFC Central, but I never had a problem with Brunell when he was with Jacksonville. I really don't know why, but I've always supported the guy.
This was a solid question and I gave an honest reply. Am I alone in rooting for several personal favorite players across the league? I hope you won't strip my Pittsburgh-homer badge from me.