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Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Alan Faneca returns as summer O-line coach

Alan Faneca has gone from a member of the Steelers' all-time team to the coaching staff this spring and summer as a volunteer assistant to Mike Munchak. The nine-time Pro Bowler talked to SCI's Jim Wexell during the spring OTA schedule.

ALAN FANECA,  volunteer assistant coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Why coaching?

AF: I can't let Joey (Porter) have all the fun, man.

Q: This is real work, isn't it?

AF: Yeah. It is. It's all in.

Q: I realize playing the game is real work, but with this there isn't much glory or pay, and the hours are long. Is that what you want?

AF: I'm there. I'm definitely interested and that's kind of why I'm doing this, to figure it all out. I've definitely gotten used to what's going on around here. I like it. It's fun. I never thought I would be here when I retired, but circumstances go and it's time to start doing something else with my life.

Q: It's not like you had set anything on fire, but were you worried you had burned bridges when you left as a free agent?

AF: I had been back several times.

Q: Guys like David DeCastro have talked about you being an idol of his since he was in high school. What's it like coaching a guy like that?

AF: It's great for a younger generation to look back on film because I can remember doing the same things, especially back when I was in high school. We had a guy named Eric Andolsek. He was our big, stud O-lineman at LSU. I can remember doing the same things and just being in amazement of what he was able to do, so I can relate to that. It's definitely cool and it's definitely good to be out here to put my two cents in.

Q: Has DeCastro said anything about that to you?

AF: No, he hasn't but the other guys have.

Q: Such as?

AF: They're just rubbing him, giving him a little bit of a hard time every time they catch us in a conversation or something.

Q: I know it doesn't bother you to see your old jersey on David, but does it have any effect on you to see someone else wearing your jersey?

AF: No, no. I guess right away, like right when I left I think somebody wore it the next year (Tony Hills). You know someone's going to wear it eventually. I still look at film and I instantly, on about a third of the plays, look right there because I'm used to watching film and watching myself first. I still zero in on him about a third of the time.

Q: It helps that he's so good then doesn't it?

AF: Yeah, he is. He's a great guy, a great player.

Q: What do you think of this O-line?

AF: It's a good group. They've got a good mix of vested guys like him and Pounce, and younger guys, and guys who've put in their time like Al (Villanueva). It's pretty amazing. I don't even know his full, complete story but just to see a guy like that not only transform his body but learning new positions, and he's up here playing in the NFL. He looks pretty damn good.

Q: I'll get to transforming your body in a minute here, but tell me about the rookie from LSU (Jerald Hawkins). Have you paid attention to him? Did you know about him before?

AF: A little bit. I've been out of Louisiana about two years now so I haven't been staying on top of it completely but I did know about him a little bit. He's really good. He's a guy who came out a little bit early, maybe. Everybody's got their own reasons but he's definitely a really good player and I think we're lucky to get him in the fourth round.

Q: Aside from staying fit, what have you been doing?

AF: Chasing the kids, enjoying life, having fun.

Q: How many kids?

AF: Three kids. We just recently moved to the D.C. area, so that's kind of fresh. It's been two years and even though it's been fun, I can't do it forever, so I started thinking it's time to start doing something. I started getting interested in finding something to do.

Q: Why D.C.?

AF: We moved there for family reasons for my daughter. New Orleans just wasn't a good fit for her.

Q: I know your wife always liked Pittsburgh.

AF: Oh, yeah. We've always come here three or four times a year since I retired.

Q: How and why have you lost the weight?

AF: I always said I was going to lose the weight when I was done, since like college. So when I decided to retire I just started losing weight. I just kicked it in and said I'm going to lose it and if it sticks it sticks, if it doesn't it doesn't. I was just going to give it a try instead of ballooning up. I figured 320 pounds wasn't what I was supposed to be carrying around the rest of my life.

Q: Was that your max?

AF: Yeah. I played around 315 to 320, in that ballpark. I lost a hundred and got all the way down to 215. I'm about 225-230 these days.

Q: Do you like that?

AF: Two (hundred and) fifteen was a little bit too light. I can almost do nothing and kind of stick around 225.

Q: (Chuckles) But you can't intimidate people like you used to. Or can you?

AF: No. You know, you step out and you get away from the game and people introduce me as the former player or whatever. And it's kind of like, 'Well, OK.' First there's the whole 'former player,' right? You're not a current player, you're a former player, so it's a little less impressive, you know, as far as meeting somebody. And then it finally kicked in on me that I'm not this big, massive guy anymore and I'm not impressive to people. They're sometimes surprised that I ever played football. I can see a little disappointment in meeting me. Well, not disappointment, but it's like, 'Well, OK, just moving on, what else are we doing here?'

Q: Aaron Smith was the same way. He always wanted to lose weight when he was done. He played basketball to lose it. How did you do it?

AF: I didn't start running until after I lost the weight. I did an hour of cardio six days a week, cut my calories to about 1800 a day, and I had a machine called a StreetStrider -- an elliptical machine you could take outside -- and I did that an hour a day, six days.

Q: What's your best football memory? I'm assuming it was with the Steelers.

AF: Yeah, no doubt. You know, the easiest one is the Super Bowl. That's almost too easy, so I won't use that one. I think my first AFC Championship Game, coming out of the tunnel and the energy of the crowd and every single Terrible Towel being up in the air. For me, that was a very chilling Steeler moment and a 'this is what it's all about.' Very much like a surreal moment for me coming out of the tunnel.

Q: You were a rookie in 1998, so that would've been the 2001 championship game you're talking about?

AF: Yes.

Q: Hey, you sprang Willie Parker in the Super Bowl. They still show that play. I'm sure you have a fond memory about that, don't you?

AF: The guys out there were mentioning that, and I said, 'Yep, that's all they show. That's what I'm known for. That's the only block I've ever made, but it's a good one!'

Q: That's still the longest run in Super Bowl history. Do you want it to remain the longest? Does it matter to you?

AF: It doesn't matter but it is nice to have. It's amazing to me that it was a record then and it's still a record.

Q: Nine Pro Bowls, eight All-Pros, a ring; your Hall of Fame credentials are strong. Will Shields went in a couple of years ago and you may have a better resume. Is that encouraging for you?

AF: Yeah, it's exciting. It was interesting going through the process this past year. Now when you're a finalist they bring you to the game. I think they started that a couple of years ago, so that's interesting. You bring your family out there and you get to go to all of these functions.

Q: Do you allow yourself to get excited that you can make it?

AF: I didn't until the day of. It was the only day we had to ourselves. I brought my family so we took the kids -- 11, 5 and a baby -- so we took them to the NFL Experience so we could goof off. You're supposed to be back in your room by three o'clock for a knock on the door. Seriously. Someone's coming to knock on your door at three o'clock, like 'Be back in your room,' so you start planning it into your day. But at that point I started thinking  about it a little bit. You realize it's a longshot, right? It was my first time, and I'm an O-lineman, that whole thing. But you're in the room so you start to think about it then. By that point you've met all the other guys and I kind of had my guys picked. I picked my five. You meet the guys, know the guys, know their stories, how long they've been waiting. So I picked the guys I was pulling for.

Q: You've got a great chance, and that would do away with that people-not-being-impressed thing when they meet you anymore.

AF: (Smiles) I would just have to wear the jacket more.


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