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 Post subject: Respect the Girth (Welcome Back, Max!)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:22 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:46 pm
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Location: Washington, DC
I didn't have a chance to post this here, but I wrote a guest article for a Pittsburgh sports daily last Friday. Here it is.

Here's a little-known fact about me. I'm a sucker for the big guys. Yep. I love the offensive and defensive linemen in today's NFL. I love that nothing the so-called "skill players" do would be possible without the hard work, the sweat and the constant physicality of the hogs. Sure, they look like grossly overweight slow-pitch softball players, but trust me, these guys are in better shape than you know. Being able to carry 300+ lbs. and still move with strength, power and quickness in a small area involves unique and difficult skills. For example, Pittsburgh Steeler Maukice Pouncey, a second-year pro from the University of Florida and one of the best young centers in NFL, stands 6'4" and weighs 304 lbs. With that frame, Pouncey can snap a ball, raise his head, shuffle his feet to widen his base, engage a defensive linemen with his powerful arms, and push that linemen back -- all within 1.5 seconds. And Pouncey can do that for 70 plays each game. So this Sunday, when you sit on your couch with your beer and chips, don't criticize the "fat guys." Don't succumb to the urge to exclaim "That guy isn't an athlete!" when you see a big 'ole offensive lineman thrown off-balance by a bull-rushing defensive end. Understand that these large, anonymous gentlemen possess fantastic athletic ability in their own right, and they form the foundation of the greatest sport in the world. It ain't easy in those trenches, people.

Indeed, I'm such a fan of Men of Girth that, after the Steelers' triumph in Super Bowl XL back in February 2006, I made an interesting jersey purchase. Instead of selecting Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward or flashy linebacker Joey Porter or up-and-coming running back Fast Willie Parker, I decided to don the unheralded shirt of second-year offensive lineman Max Starks. Because neither the Steelers nor the NFL offered Mr. Starks' jersey for sale, I had to custom order his fine #78. Why did I pick Max? Well, he played very well at right tackle for the black 'n gold throughout the 2005 season and hit another gear in the playoffs. Max's hard work culminated with perfect first- and second-level blocks on a play in the third quarter of Super Bowl XL that the Steelers call "34 Counter Pike." You probably remember this play as the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history...



If you watch the above YouTube clip from :42 through :46, you'll see Max Starks block two Seattle Seahawks players, one defensive lineman (first level) and one linebacker (second level), and then turn his body away from the hole to seal off inside pursuit. The other perfectly executed block on this play was thrown by future Hall of Fame guard Alan Faneca, who pulled from his left guard position to lead Willie Parker through the hole and engulf the Seahawks linebacker charged with responsibility for the 4-gap. This play was so well-blocked that Willie Parker ran 75 yards, untouched, for a score. Everyone praised Fast Willie for his speed, but it was the blocking that made it work. That, my fellow fans, is why I love the big guys.

Fast forward to 2011. After undergoing neck surgery in 2010, Max Starks showed up to the Steelers' 2011 training camp weighing (according to some reports) over 400 lbs. Because of Big Max's price tag (more than $7 million), unpredictable health and swollen gut, the team released him in August. Unfortunately, Mike Tomlin and Sean Kugler (the Steelers' offensive line coach) turned to Jonathan Scott to take up #78's spot at left tackle. As we've seen, Mr. Scott is not a competent player. And that is the kindest thing I can say about a man who plays as if he has significant money invested in the orthopaedic practice lined up to operate on Ben Roethlisberger. So, after watching Mr. Scott get pushed around by the Indianapolis Colts and then hurt when Dwight Freeney trucked him, and after watching Mr. Scott's back-up Trai Essex get embarrassed by anonymous Houston Texans pass rushers, the coaching staff found Max's phone number this week and gave him a call. I assume the conversation went something like this:

Mike Tomlin: "Max, how are you?"
Max Starks: "Fine. How's Roethlisberger?"
Mike Tomlin: "Uh, he'll be OK. Are you interested in stopping by the South Side?"
Max Starks: "Sure. I just have to finish this rack of lamb."
Mike Tomlin: "Um, uh..."
Max Starks: "I'm just screwing with you coach. I'll be over tomorrow."

Max Starks showed up to the Steelers' South Side complex on Wednesday having lost about 50 lbs. over the last two months. Now carrying "only" about 345 lbs. on his 6'8" frame, Max is ready to get back to the business of throwing large men into the grass and dirt. The Steelers signed him to a one-year deal and Ben Roethlisberger heaved a large sigh of relief. It looks like #78 will bring some degree of competence back to the crucial left tackle position.

Just as important, despite being the proud owner of a white Mike Wallace jersey, I plan to dust off my Max Starks jersey on Sunday and wear it for the Steelers' game against the Tennessee Titans in honor of #78's return to the fold. Maybe we can even see "34 Counter Pike."

Reminding You to Respect the Girth,

J_C_Steel


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 Post subject: Re: Respect the Girth (Welcome Back, Max!)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:22 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:46 pm
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Location: Washington, DC
And here I am after the Steelers dismantled the Titans:

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