New camp phenom?

LATROBE – Fast Willie Parker was the camp phenom last year. This year the camp phenom just might be Fightin' Willie Colon. The fourth-round draft pick opened eyes in the spring with his strength, aggressiveness and technique. Yesterday he opened eyes with his nasty attitude ...

... courtesy of Clark Haggans.

In one-on-one line drills, Colon, the right tackle, stonewalled Haggans, the left outside linebacker, and a frustrated Haggans ripped Colon's helmet off. The two stood a foot or so apart, ready to go at it as Colon nodded his head as if to say, bring it on. Haggans walked back to the line telling Colon they could go at any time, and Colon talked back in the affirmative.

Colon was sent back out for another rep, but Haggans was replaced – and the two exchanged a few more barbs from a further distance.

The smack talk continued a few plays later, after Haggans blew past Nick Hagemann, and, as Haggans began walking to the other field for 7-on-7 drills, Colon blew him a kiss amidst the threat of an all-out brouhaha. It wouldn't have been Colon's first.

"I was known for getting in scuffles in college," he said. "I got in a scuffle in the coaching sessions with Orien Harris. But it's on the field. I leave it on the field. I never take it in the locker room. It's just my competitive nature that whoever I'm going against sometimes things get hot-headed and that's just football. It's always going to be like that but I never take it into the locker room. I'm going in to have dinner with Clark right now, buy him a drink, whatever he wants. I'll never take it off the field. That's the way you have to treat it."

The Steelers drafted Colon (pronounced Kuh-LOAN) out of Hofstra in the fourth round. The Division I-AA pedigree wasn't the only strike against Colon, who, at 6-foot-3, was considered by many as too short to play tackle. But he grew up in the South Bronx, where a young man learns never to back down -- not against a thug and not against a leader of a Super Bowl champion.

"Never have, never will. No matter where I'm at, no matter what the situation is," Colon said. "I mean he's competitive out here; he's a veteran; he's well-known; he's a great athlete; he's a factor to this defense. I'm a rookie just trying to make my name known – not even that; I'm a rookie just trying to make the ball club. Anytime you let anyone of his status, or any status, try to show you up and you don't respond, then you just become the weak link around here and I refuse to be the weak link. I work my butt off too hard to be the weak link.

"Coming from the South Bronx, only the strong survive and I've taken that personally, like a creed of mind, and I work on it. I'm not a bad ass. I'm not somebody that will go out there and fight. But if you test me, I'm going to test you back. I'm going to give you what you give me.

I'm here to play football, represent the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, represent my family, and I need to be a positive role model to whoever gives a damn about me."

Colon impressed the Steelers in the spring and they think they have a keeper. Colon, though, is less than impressed. He said he let the heat get the better of him Monday, but woke up Tuesday telling himself to give everything he had and all would fall into place.

Blowing a kiss to one of the top pass-rushing linebackers in the NFL probably wasn't what Colon had in mind, but stone-walling Haggans in the first place was.

Colon is not only strong, but his stumpy build allows him to establish a strong base as he snaps his thick arms into a linebacker's chest with authority.

"It's the heart of the dog," he said. "I've played against 6-6 guys, 6-5 guys. I've won some, lost some. Every day you've just got to get better. You've got to take what you do with pride. This is my craft. I'm not a lawyer or a doctor. This is what I do for a living, so I take it very seriously. Whoever lines up against me, they have to know I'm going to take it very seriously so they'd better take it very seriously. And that's it. I'm not some back-alley bully. If that's the reputation people give me, fine, but I'm a loving guy. I love my Lord. I love my family. And I'm going to give it 110 percent all the time."

Coach Bill Cowher didn't see the amusing skirmish between Colon and Haggans but he heard about it.

"That's good competition," Cowher said. "Willie's a tough kid, very proud, and a very good competitor."

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