Aaron Smith, Mike Ditka, and The Chief

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I went down to the Steelers practice facility on Friday to do a little work. The bonus was sitting down and grubbing out with one of my all-time favorite players and guys, Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith. Aaron looks great, is ahead of schedule in his rotator cuff rehab, and participated in the just finished OTA’s (On the field activities).

Aaron is a throwback guy, one who would have been better suited to playing in the 70’s or 80’s than today’s generation of players. A real salt-of-the earth guy who like me, loves Jesus and Aaron really walks his faith. I have a great deal of respect for him as a player and a man.

Anywho, the reason I brought him up is that when I left the NFL after the ’91 season there was just beginning to develop a cross section of guys entering the game that loved the NFL life more than the game. They loved all the “shiny stuff” that comes with lining up on Sundays, but their heart isn’t into becoming a great individual and team player. And that type of player has grown in number over the years. They can say the right things, but when their work habits are put under the microscope, they don’t pass the smell test. Their heart isn’t into the game itself. Aaron Smith is definitely not one of those guys.

Later on that same day I had a similar conversation with a Pittsburgh guy and also a great player himself, the legendary Mike Ditka. Mike talked about guys “Playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.” Meaning hard-nosed, less talk and team oriented rather than the look at me type of attitude displayed by all too many guys nowadays.  So I guess it’s not just me.

I remember when the Chief, Steelers founder Art Rooney said sometime back in the early 80’s that the only thing that can ruin this game is money. Meaning that too much can spoil everybody and alter the desires that fuel the performances. I’m merely making an observation as I’m all for every player making as much as he can while he can in a sport that does not inspire long range security. But i can’t help but take notice of a certain percentage of today’s players that really love the life more than the game.