There were no notes to take, like the frantic Action News reporters on either side of me; no clichés to remember.
But then Cowher, the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said something that gave me impetus for the rest of the Wednesday morning proceedings.
"Dick (LeBeau) has brought a lot," Cowher started. "I've always enjoyed when he and Dick Hoak get together and start talking about old-time football stories. I just sit back and enjoy it."
That's it. That's the interview: Dick Hoak. The running backs coach has been around for 44 years. He not only has seen the '70s, he's seen the '60s. He probably watched the '50s from his home in Jeannette. He's the man.
The tables were set up behind the main stage and all the nameplates were in place. I posted up, and when Hoak showed up he looked a little surprised.
Cowher, I started, told us he loves listening to you spin yarns.
"He's so full of it," said Hoak.
He comes across as gruff. Willie Parker was scared to death of him when he got here. Now Parker just laughs and calls his position coach "grumpy."
But Hoak was far from grumpy on this day. He seemed to enjoy the trip down memory lane with me, Dale Lolley, Bob McGinn, Dave Anderson – you know, the titans of the business. Hoak gave us enough material for a diary entry, a next-day column and even a post-season book. Every time I wanted to leave, I heard Cowher's voice: listen to the old-time football stories.
I could've joined the growing mob around Joey Porter, or tried to glean more wisdom from Troy Polamalu, or tried to extrapolate the genesis of the zone blitz from Dick LeBeau, but I opted to stick with man who knows the most about Steelers history.
Hoak talked about his four rings, and how he only wears one, maybe two, on a Saturday night before games. He said that winning "one for the thumb" is not an issue with him, that he'd rather win one for the players and coaches, particularly the coaches who didn't have one.
Like Matt Raich. He was sitting at his table by himself reading a newspaper. A former high-school star in Beaver County, Raich is a young guy who always has a smile on his face and a kind word. He's the quality control coach for the offense, and a big part of his duty is scouting future opponents and organizing the practices and film for that future opponent. But you don't break down film for the Pro Bowl, so young Raich is on a vacation of sorts.
Do you have a ring, Matt?
"Yes I do," he said with a smile. "I was on the Westminster team that won an NAIA championship."
Does that impress the chicks, Matt?
"Not really," he said. "A Super Bowl ring might."
It might, Matt, but it might not. He laughed.
Kevin Colbert watched from the side of the room as reporters moved from table to table. He's easily approachable but never really says much. I told him how surprised I was to read his one-on-one interview with Dale Lolley on our site.
"I can talk without saying anything," Colbert said with a smile. "Mike Prisuta was complaining because he said he drove four-and-a-half hours to finally get an interview with me, and then I still didn't say anything."
You're proud of that aren't you, Kevin?
"Yes I am," he said with an even wider smile.
Colbert should be proud of the roster, too. Only six players remain from the Tom Donahoe era. Colbert has completely transformed the Steelers into a Super Bowl favorite in only six years, except for the six players.
"They're six pretty important players though," he countered.
But Jerome Bettis is talking about retirement and Deshea Townsend will be a free agent. That leaves … um … Porter, and …
He's pretty good, too.
Well, you're right, Kevin. Those are some pretty important players. Thanks for the info.
And with another smile he was gone.