Steelers LG Willie Colon Offers Insight Behind Two Season-Ending Injuries

DALLAS TX - JANUARY 31: Willie Colon #74 of the Pittsburgh Steelers wears the Michigan State jersey of teammate Flozell Adams while arriving at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on January 31 2011 in Dallas Texas. The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV on February 6 2011 at Cowboys Stadium. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Steelers then right tackle Willie Colon made it through all 64 plays in the Steelers' opening loss to Baltimore - a 35-7 shellacking by the eventual AFC North champions.

As if that loss wasn't hard enough to take, the following week he lost something else; again.

His season.

The mental makeup of a professional athlete is just as extraordinary as his/her physical gifts. Dealing with setback after setback has to be difficult.

But as Steelers.com writer Theresa Varley pens, Colon is just as tough mentally as physically.

Colon really lets his hair down - pun intended - in the interview on Steelers.com. More than anything, the interview shows Colon's commitment to the team. Instead of staying away from the facility, Colon embraced his leadership role, working with his replacement - then rookie Marcus Gilbert - as well as the rest of what was generally a young offensive line in 2011.

"I just wanted to cling to everything football had to offer, being around the guys and stuff," Colon told Varley. "I wasn't ready to leave it. Every inch of it I grabbed on to. Part of that was being in the meeting room, on the sidelines, being a rah-rah guy. It helped me feel like football wasn't leaving me."

Unfortunately for him, he had experience. After missing the Steelers run to the Super Bowl in 2010, Colon had chosen to stick around the team, helping the rest of the offensive line as well as coach Sean Kugler and QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Guys don't get contract extensions like Colon did after missing a season if a team doesn't want him around.

It's a different world in 2012. The Steelers offensive line shows all the reason in the world to think what was once a weakness will be a strength. Colon, whose physical build as well as mentality makes him seemingly more suitable for an interior lineman, will play left guard this season. His move there, along with first-round draft pick RG David DeCastro and C Maurkice Pouncey, could give the Steelers one of the most formidable interior offensive lines in football.

Pouncey is recovering from injuries that kept him down much of 2011, and DeCastro's work ethic and technical savvy give the Steelers versatility - all three can pull, all three can maul and all three can pass protect.

Colon's got the edge in adversity experienced, though.

"I learned a lot about myself during the injuries. I had a lot of dark nights, wanted to give up. But it made me think about how much I love the game, and I thought about the good times and it lit my fire. I love coming out of the tunnel and hearing the fans cheer. That feeling you get in your gut, the nerves. I still have that in my belly. That kept me going. Even now, when I see my helmet, put my cleats on, I still have that fire that I want to play football."


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