Every year, my family and I connect from all parts of the globe in Pittsburgh for the Steelers/Ravens game. It's a trip that requires tons of planning and begins the minute the NFL releases the schedule for the coming season. Believe me, hotel rooms book for this annual epic clash very quickly and prices skyrocket. Having a touch of OCD really does help in this endeavor. It becomes an obsession working on details, securing tickets (this year, there were 14 of us, so that's no small task.) etc.
This trip to Heinz Field in October was filled with quite a few surprises for me. Beginning with the Pirate Parrot and his Parrot mobile being at our hotel (I'm a Pittsburgh sports fan and PROUD member of Bucco Nation from the beginning) which was so exciting for me ... judge me; I don't care... a meet & greet with Maurkice Pouncey at Station Square, where loads of Steeler fans were on hand to wish him healthy and a meet & greet hosted by SteelCity Mafia with Greg Lloyd. Both of these men were so gracious and sweet, engaging in conversation that they genuinely seemed to enjoy. I've always loved Greg Lloyd and his disposition. :)
My son, who is Active Duty in the Air Force was not able to make the trip this year due to military commitments, so I got the signed pictures for him for his birthday that was just around the corner. Naturally I tried to include him as much as possible and spoke to him frequently during the 3 days were in the 'Burgh. He asked me if I got Greg Lloyd to sign the Terrible Towel. Of course not! That's reserved for my favorite Steeler ever: Mel Blount.
Fast forward to game day: It was PERFECT. Weather was great. 4:00 game allowed lots of time for tailgating and just soaking up the incredible pre-game Heinz Field ambiance.
We walked to Bettis' Grill after making our way from PNC Park toward Heinz ~ Thousands and thousands of people mill about and everyone is pumped up for the clash of the AFC North powerhouse teams. It's getting close to game time so we decided to make our way into the stadium.
There was a small parking lot across from Bettis' Grill that we opted to cut through to avoid the crowds. We passed the VIP tents and my mind wondered just who might be inside those white tents.....
Half way through the lot, a very large man in a cowboy hat walked with authority toward the gate. It didn't take a minute to know who he was when he tipped his hat and smiled as he walked past. I froze. That was Mel Blount!!
After I was able to get my brain to relay the "walk" instructions to my feet again, I asked him if he would be so kind as to allow me to shake his hand. He not only allowed that, he asked if I had my camera. Well.... every one of my family raised their phones and the picture taking began! Mr. Blount went above and beyond. He was so very kind, generous and patient. My daughter remarked that I may pass out (can't lie... I got a little numb for a minute) and my football hero, with his arm around my shoulder looked me in the eye and said "Don't you worry. I won't let you hit the ground." Well that's when I knew he was remarkable. My day was MADE. Add to that our Steelers put a beatdown on the Ravens and NOTHING could make me happier!
When I got back to Nashville, I sent a thank you card with a picture enclosed to the Mel Blount Home in Pittsburgh. Whether he got it or not didn't matter. I wanted whomever was going to read it how much I appreciated him taking time to do what he didn't have to do and how much it meant to me.
It's now March: I checked my mail on Saturday morning and what do I find? An envelope with the Mel Blount Home in the return address box.
Inside the envelope was the picture I sent: Signed by Mr. Mel Blount (HOF 89) I could have used him holding me up after that one! Shocked, grateful and beyond thrilled that my football hero really IS the incredible person that I always hoped he would be!!
This Pittsburgh girl shed tears of joy.... all because of one Mel Blount!
In all of the excitement, I completely forgot to ask him if he would sign the Terrible Towel, but I think I'll save that for hopefully another time.