Cope will be missed

The year was 1993 and the Steelers were coming off their first season under head coach Bill Cowher. I had joined the sports staff at the Observer-Reporter in Washington after spending short periods of time at the Johnstown and Oil City newspapers. Soon after joining the staff in February, my boss, Tom Rose, announced that he no longer wanted to cover the Steelers. After 12 seasons with the team, he was looking for someone else to be our beat guy.

Covering a pro football team had been a dream of mine for some time and though I was just 24 years old, I jumped at the opportunity. Thankfully, the paper was willing to take a chance on a kid who was still finding his way in the business and put me on the beat.

That's where I had the good fortune to meet Myron Cope.

The first Steelers game I covered for the paper happened to be played in Barcelona, Spain. It was an overwhelming assignment for a kid from the sticks who had never before been on an airplane and whose only forays into a foreign land had been a couple of trips to Canada.

And because I had neither grown up in Pittsburgh nor gone to school at one of the Pittsburgh colleges, I was basically an outsider.

That's where Cope came in.

When we landed in Barcelona after an all-night flight, Cowher wanted to get his team on the local schedule. So we went straight from the airport to the hotel and then to the stadium for practice. Welcome to the NFL life, rookie.

The team was working out on the field next to the Olympic stadium and I sat down in what amounted to a dugout to take it all in. Along came the little man.

"Is anyone sitting here," he asked.

"No, Mr. Cope," I replied nervously.

"Who might you be?" he asked.

I introduced myself and told him I was taking over the beat for Tom Rose.

Cope welcomed me and we sat and chatted while practice went on. It was one of the highlights of my life to that point.

Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania – even the northwest corner – I had seen Cope on television as a kid. I had heard him on Steelers' broadcasts.

And now I could say that I knew the man.

Over the now 13 years I've been covering the Steelers, I have been lucky enough to have many such conversations with Myron, either on the sidelines at practice, in his room at training camp, on a plane or in a hotel bar somewhere. Every time I've considered myself fortunate.

He's a one-of-a-kind talent and he will be missed.

Not that Cope will be completely missing from the Steelers. I fully expect him to show up at some home games this year. And I'd be surprised if he doesn't come out to Latrobe for a "toddy" or two.

But retirement is something we all must face at some point. Some welcome it because they don't really love their job. Cope was not one of those. He loves the Steelers, the fans and everything about the NFL.

We should all be so fortunate to enjoy our life's work as much.

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