Behind the Bronze: Jack Ham

Behind the Bronze: Jack Ham

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Two-hundred-sixty bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced.

Jack Ham

Linebacker Jack Ham was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round in 1971. He earned a starting position as a rookie, named All-AFC or All-Pro seven straight years and was voted to eight consecutive Pro Bowls. His 32 career interceptions rank him tied for first among all Hall of Fame linebackers. He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1988.

I guess one of my hobbies is I have to actually work for a living, number one. I'm in the energy business. No. 2, my wife and I both really enjoy live theater. We go to theater in the Pittsburgh area, we love going to New York. So, anytime you can get live theater for me, that's my first love.

Last Book You Read: Hotel Pastis: A Novel of Provence by Peter Mayle.

Favorite Music: I enjoy the three tenors – José Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti

Favorite Food: Pasta. My favorite is pali fino, a green noodle along with white noodle, with prosciutto and peas and a very, very light on the cream.

Favorite Current NFL Player: It's got to be Tom Brady because of his professionalism and how he goes about his business running that offensive football team. He's a true professional.

Favorite Athlete in another sport: Tiger Woods. Let's not go into all the other stuff. But, the way (up until this year) he's been able to each week dominate that sport.

Favorite NFL Team as a Child: San Diego Chargers. I used to watch the old AFL games and loved the wide-open AFL.

Favorite NFL Stadium (other than Three Rivers): I loved playing in Oakland. People would throw stuff at you and you had to go underneath that tunnel to go back into the locker room. We knew we had a hell of a challenge in front of us playing the Raiders out there during that period time.

One Person Who Influenced You Most: Joe Paterno. Because when you're 18 or 19 years old you could go in a lot of directions. He got me grounded early in my college career, as a student number one, and a football player, number two.

Did you have any pre-game rituals/superstitions? I really didn't. Well, there was one. Terry Bradshaw would always throw me a pass first when we got out there on the field in pregame warm-ups. He'd help me with my hands because he'd drill that ball at me so hard so any other quarterback when I was trying to intercept a pass wasn't as bad. But, it was really more of a tradition than a superstition.

Watch: Jack Ham describes his most memorable game.
Why'd you pick No. 59? I didn't. The Steelers equipment guy gave it to me, "here rookie, here's your shirt!" I was 33 in college but that was for running backs in the pros.


Toughest Player You Ever Faced: Earl Campbell, by far. On a professional level, we're pretty much on the same level. But, he could embarrass you.

What makes you most proud about your Hall of Fame career: The idea that we were able to win championships back-to-back and then do it again two years later. I think the idea that when everyone's gunning for you and you do it again, that in my career is most rewarding.

How would you spend time during the offseason? Since we weren't making $5-7 million a year back then, I was preparing for what I'm doing today. I worked for a brokerage company in the coal and energy business which is exactly what I'm doing now.

When did you realize you may someday make the Hall of Fame: I don't think you ever realize it. It was so far removed from your eyesight when you're playing. Until your five years of eligibility are up and then you become nominated, then you think about it.

How did you learn of your Hall of Fame election? Normally the Hall of Fame would call you but I hadn't received the call so I thought I wasn't in. Then, I got a call from one of the Pittsburgh TV stations, KDKA I think, and that's actually how I first found out.

Did you consider anyone other Joe Paterno as your presenter? There wasn't No. 2. There was no question. He was coming in for a dinner in Pittsburgh and my wife and I brought him to the house. And, he asked me why I wanted him to come over. I kidded with him and told him I needed to ask him something. I told him that I really have some financial problems and could I borrow a couple hundred thousand dollars from him. He looked at me, and then I said 'Oh Joe, I'm only kidding you. I want you to be my presenter at the Hall of Fame.' He was honored. He was terrific here as my presenter.

If you could do your Enshrinement Speech over today, what would you change: I don't think I would. I think even sometimes preparation for that speech can be a diminishing return. It has to be from the heart. Our sport is not golf or tennis, it's not individual. There are a lot of people who help along the way to help you get here. So, I don't think I would change much.

Your greatest accomplishment outside of football: My marriage. I've been married 35 years to the same woman. I met my wife Joanne in 1972. Trust me, it's a work in a progress, it always is. But, I take a lot of pride in it.

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