Roundtable: Bradshaw & Blount at Celebrity Roast

On April 16th, Terry Bradshaw was the honored guest at the Mel Blount Youth Home Celebrity Roast. Preceding the roast, there was a roundtable press conference that included Bradshaw, Blount, Andy Russell, Chuck Noll, Randy Grossman, and John Stallworth. In part one of a three-part transcript, Bradshaw talks about the various challenges he's faced in life.

Terry Bradshaw: Mel just turned 56 this week. I couldn't believe he's 56. I can't believe we're all 56. You turn around, man, and you're old. Fifty killed me. I hit 50.It destroyed me. I don't know what that mental thing is. I guess it says it's over. You know, you're finished.

Mel Blount: Good to be here.

Reporter: Terry, what are your impressions of the ‘79 team as you look back? It was kind of your statistical peak.

TB: To tell you the truth, I can't recall a whole lot about it. I can't recall how much we struggled. I don't even recall the record. Was it 12-4?

R: It was kind of like the coming out party for the offense.

TB: Well, they changed the rules now, too. The bump-and-run had been outlawed because of him. Tex Schramm had that done.

MB: Is that right?

TB: Yeah. You didn't know that? Yeah, but that had a lot to do with it and also it's like anything else as our team evolved from dominant defense/ball-control offense. As progression had it, I got better, and Swannie and Stalls and we really became, offensively, pretty dominating. And when they took away the bump-and-run then we took advantage of it. You take two great receivers, get ‘em past five yards and here we go. We had a great offensive line, so we took advantage of it.

R: You had some low lows and some high highs. You hinted at retirement. Was it an exhausting year?

TB: Winning Super Bowls is always exhausting, and I believe after that season I was so tired. I can't imagine what it would've felt like with today's media coverage. I do remember thinking, 'OK, four Super Bowls in 10 years. Hmmm. That's pretty good. Move on now? Hmmm. That looks real good.' So I took pilot with NBC and the whole thinking behind taking a pilot -- cause I was tired. Normally, when football's over I would set it aside and try not to think about it. But when you're Super Bowl champion, it's hard not to do that. And I had an opportunity to make a LOT of money. We had Johnny Carson Productions, Mel Tillis, Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham (ck) backing this pilot, and if this thing went one year I would've made more money in one year than I would've made in the next three years playing. And so I thought about that. It's the first time I've ever looked at money over playing but that's the fatigue from being under all that pressure of winning Super Bowls, cause once you set that standard, and he'll agree with me on this, you don't make it, it's a failure. And that's hard. That wears a player out. We had won two, we took two years off and then the two years we had off remember they were saying 'Steelers are done. Steelers are old.' They took all of us and started doing our age thing. So if they had the right as the media to do that then we had the right to think, 'Well, you know, that's OK. We'll move on.' But then we won two more, so we were back in everybody's good graces, so to speak.

R: Speaking of being back in good graces, how does it feel to be back in this town and not have people ask you about coming?

TB: Your relationship to the city? I know. I told you, the last time I was here, when I did that stadium thing, that's it. Can't anybody anything. You put it to rest.

R: What's that mean to you?

TB: Well it just takes a big burden off. It just makes it easy for me to get around and not have to say or answer questions, 'Why are you here? Dah, da dah. You and Chuck. You and the city. You and the Steelers. It's an old issue and it's been put to bed.

R: Mel said, 'Just open the doors and people rolled in to see you tonight.'

TB: They must think I'm singing.

MB: Oh, we might let you sing.

TB: No, no. Hey, last night I was in Minneapolis and I'd been sick as a dog for two weeks. And there's this really good guitar player there and this other guy, and they wanted me to sing. At the end of my presentation, they wanted me to sing 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.' And I said, 'I couldn't sing that song. Listen to me. I can't hold a note.' So I got through and they didn't even ask me, they just came up with their guitars. So I sang it.

R: How'd that go over?

TB: Not good. Not good. But I did it. What the heck?

R: Are you surprised the way people have taken back to you? Pleased?

TB: Pleased. I wouldn't say surprised, but I'm pleased. I don't know why I've been so apprehensive about how this city feels about me.

R: You were talking about being booed.

TB: My last game here I got booed off the field. I mean, I threw an interception that cost us the game. So what's up with that? It was against the Chargers. But I was looking at the bright side. We'd driven 90 yards down there to win the game in the last few minutes but I've always had this uncomfortable feeling in this city and I think it probably had to do with -- here's one of the reasons right here (Andy Russell), he didn't help matters any. How you doin' buddy? But for whatever reason, I had this in the back of my mind that people didn't appreciate our efforts, or appreciate me, and I wanted to kind of stick up for myself but I didn't. I just took it in and kind of smothered it. But after going to all these therapy classes the last few years I found out you best get it out in the open. You'll feel better about yourself.

R: You've been speaking about depression. What kind of reaction have you gotten from people?

TB: Good, except for talk radio. Sports talk has been brutal, but that's to be expected.

R: What do you mean by that?

TB: Oh, they're just crude.

R: Making fun of you?

TB: Oh, yeah. And that's one of the reasons I didn't want to do it in the first place anyway. It's one of the reasons I hesitated on doing that. It's a very serious disease and I was trying to explain to the drug company that, 'You don't understand. There are people out there that are going to take this and really...'

R: Why did you do it?

TB: I actually turned it down, and I came back a few weeks later, walked into my office and (agent) Jeff Quinn and I were talking. And I said, 'You know what? Why would I allow a few people to ruin something that I possibly -- possibly now -- that I could do some good for some folks.' I think as athletes, so much is given to us. And I've been one who's given very little back. I've pretty much stayed hidden out. And so I decided, 'You know what? I think I can handle this. I think I can do some good.' So I started off with just three cities -- three nice small cities: New York, Chicago and L.A. It was a good start. And then it went really good, then the following year we did eight and this year I'm doing 12.

R: How much did that affect your play?

TB: You know, I've been asked that and I honestly don't think it affected me at all. Obviously it couldn't have because I wasn't thinking I was clinically depressed. When you look back on it, I can pinpoint a lot of instances where depression played a large part in my behavior, but you could also say that due to bad performance, bad relationships, that had a lot to do with sending me deeper into the hole. But also the depression, for me, was a motivating factor. One of the things about being depressed, clinically depressed, is it doesn't keep you from seeking and pursuing goals and trying to accomplish things because you need to do that. You say to yourself, 'Boy, if I can win another Super Bowl then that's really, that's going to put me over and I'm going to feel good.' And it never did that, so it was a driving force behind accomplishing things, because you're always pursuing stuff, hoping this is the answer, or this is the answer, and nothing ever is. And while you're doing that, you're accomplishing a lot of wonderful things. So it doesn't prohibit you from being successful. It prohibits you from being happy and being able to enjoy your success.

R: What was the turning point? When did you decide to try to tackle your depression?

TB: I was asked. You know what I did? I did this one book. The last two books I did for this company, I said, 'This is it.' I didn't want to do the books, either, because when you do these stupid books you -- I think you do -- you have to be brutally honest. And when you do that, you're going to hurt people's feelings, or you're going to let people see a side of you that you've protected so long. So when they do see this, they go, 'Wait a minute. I didn't know that about him.' And so I was doing the last book -- I think it was called "Keep It Simple" -- and I just slid it in there, just slid it in, and nobody picked up on it, about being clinically depressed. I just slid it in there, in one of those little chapters I was doing. But the drug company, some of their people that read the book, saw it. And obviously, if you can get highly visible people promoting your product, that's good for them. It helps them sell. So that led them to contact me and I just flat said, 'No. I'm not interested,' because it's such a personal thing. Any misfortune we have, especially mental illness, is no one's business. You don't want to go around -- and least I don't because there's enough past stuff out there without me making it even more so and having people make fun of you. I didn't want that to happen. Enough people had made enough fun of me for many years and I didn't want that to happen. That's what I was thinking. People would take it and make fun of me. Then, I finally thought, 'Who could handle it? Me. Maybe I can do some good.' And so that's why I came back later and said, 'Let's do this, but a little bit, not a lot.' I mean, Chicago, New York, L.A. That's a lot.

R: Do people see it as a human side of you?

TB: I don't know. I speak to major corporations and one of the clauses now in the contract is "Please don't talk about your mental illness." So I don't. It's kind of hard to be giving motivational talks and then going, 'By the way, I'm clinically depressed. How do you all feel?' So I don't bring it up.

R: How are you feeling these days?

TB: I feel great.

R: This roast me be --

TB: I didn't know it was a roast or I wouldn't be here. He didn't tell me it was a roast. Did you?

MB: You won't get roasted. Believe me. Tell them what you said.

TB: What did I say?

MB: He said, 'Roasted? Man, I was roasted for 14 years.'

TB: I didn't say that. You can believe what you want to believe.

R: Are you able to look back now and enjoy the success? Enjoy the fact you called our own plays? Did things people don't do now?

TB: I'm just proud. We were at the very end, before everybody started leaving, so were able to do something. That same group of people that won Super Bowl IX won Super Bowl XIV, so that makes that bunch, with very few exceptions, that I'm very proud of.

R: What about calling your own plays?

TB: You know, I use that a lot simply to make fun of all these high-dollar guys today. All these Peyton Mannings and Ryan Leafs of the world who've never made it. Manning certainly has, but it's to point out the differences of people when they start saying, 'He's great, he's great, he's great.' Great is overused. Please define great for me. How can you say Montana's the best ever? He didn't call a play. How can you say Peyton Manning's worth $100 million? He's won one playoff game in five years. And now you're going to ruin your salary cap cause he's going to be 20-something percent of the salary cap in Indianapolis. How are they going to block for him? How are they going to keep people together? So I make fun of them because in real life you make your own choices. Andy doesn't sit over there and wait for Bud to signal in a play at his consulting firm? At Mel's boys homes, he's not waiting for Bud or somebody else to call and tell him what to do. We have to make our own decisions daily in life and I had always called my own plays. I called my own plays in college, in high school. It was just something natural. I don't know what led Chuck to do that. Did Johnny call all his own plays in Baltimore? He was there with Shula. I just don't know. But the other side of it, it's such a business and they have to spend all this time now with these teams. Why can't they learn these plays? Why can't these learn these groups? On third-and-2 we need this group or that group. My point is, when you go around saying somebody's great and you start comparing him, then look in his head. When they back out of the huddle, there's a microphone in his helmet. It's telling him what to do. All they have to do is call a formation and a snap count, and God how easy is that? The few times I struggled as a player, I went to Chuck and said, 'Would you call the plays?' Now, why would I do that? Because it takes all the pressure off me. Some way inside, you say to yourself, 'Well, if this game doesn't go the way we want it to go, I didn't call these plays. Chuck did.'

R: So what would he say on those occasions?

TB: He'd call them. And then I had to signal to him that, 'OK, I've got it from here.' It's just my way of just slapping those guys in the face and letting them know they're not such hot shit. That's the only reason. Can I say that? I just did.


* Part II Coming Thursday

* Part III Coming Saturday

Steel City Insider Top Stories