Q&A with Jack Ham

Q&A with Jack Ham

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Since you were there on that faithful day, what is your interpretation of the "Immaculate Reception?" Could you also explain what it feels like every time you see it replayed on television? - Thanks, Bobby
JH: Well, I was on the sidelines. I actually didn't see the play, I was cutting tape off because I thought that the game might be over at that point, and never had the opportunity to even see the play. Actually, I thought the play would be called back because in those days you could not have two offensive players touching the football.

Jack HamJack, When you were playing, did you guys realize or ever discuss just how good you were? I know as I look back at that defense, with players like Joe Greene, Dwight White, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood (loved those shoes), you just gotta know you were something special. Thanks.
JH: If you're going through a situation like that or experiencing it, you don't think about Mel Blount being a Hall of Famer, or Joe Greene, or Jack Lambert, or all the other players. You're involved in trying to win a championship, win a Super Bowl. Not that I didn't think that we had outstanding players on our team. But, never to the effect that all of us would get in the Hall of Fame at some point, and win four Super Bowls.

Hello Jack, Thanks for all the incredible memories. You were a hero to a lot of little kids in the '70s who are now boring their kids with stories about the great Steelers teams and all of the lessons that come from perseverance, guts, and hard work. My question is, was there a single moment where it hit you that you were going to be successful in the NFL? Have you had any similar moments in your life after football? Thanks, John Kaminski, Bronxville, NY
JH: I always thought I'd be successful coming in. I was drafted in the second round and thought I could play professional football. I never thought that I would get on a football team that would have that kind of talent and win that many championships. It's very difficult to equate that experience with a football team, not that I don't enjoy the business world I'm in right now, but it's very difficult to equate those kinds of emotions and experiences to what I'm doing now.

What is the feeling you get right after you find out you are going to the Super Bowl?
JH: A feeling that is so special. The latter part of the championship game that we played in Pittsburgh against Houston, or the Raiders, whatever, that's when you realize late in the fourth quarter that you are going to be going to the Super Bowl - especially the first one when we beat the Raiders. That emotion and experience, for myself, and collectively our football team - you never forget that.

Jack - How important is it to have the home field advantage during playoffs?
JH: I think it's very important. I think that it is more important in pro football than in any other sport. The crowd noise can be a factor for another team running their offense. The weather - if you're playing a team from the south coming to Pittsburgh. That can be very, very important. That's why teams fight so hard to get that home field advantage. But once you have it, you better take advantage of it because teams have been upset the last couple years.

Mr. Ham, I am a huge Steelers fan and enjoy your radio commentary. What I would like to know is if you stay in contact with any of your former teammates and who? Thanks, Wally Blount, Roanoke, VA
JH: My next-door neighbor is Lynn Swann, a California guy who's made Pittsburgh his home. We probably have about 10 or 15 players off our team - Mike Wagner, L.C. Greenwood, Franco Harris - I could go down the line here - a lot of players who are still living in the Pittsburgh area and working in the area. So, every once in a while we get together and tell lies about how good we were.

Mr. Ham - Do you feel that the linebackers this season match up to those of the "Steel Curtain" and also what are your thoughts on Steelers rookie sensation Kendrell Bell? - Tom Miller, Washington, VA
JH: First of all, it's different decades were talking about. Also different defenses - I played on a 4-3. As a 3-4 defense with different responsibilities for outside linebackers, it's very hard to compare the two. Kendrell Bell has turned into just a phenomenal football player and should have been a No. 1 draft pick. He has already been named defensive rookie of the year. So, the upside potential for him to be just a great linebacker in the NFL is out there for him.

Jack, What was your greatest playoff moment? - Robb Phillips
JH: My greatest playoff moment was when we ended up beating the Raiders in Oakland to go to our first Super Bowl. It was a great Raider team with Kenny Stabler, and Branch, and Biletnikoff, and all those guys, and we actually went out there and dominated the Raiders. I think we held them to like 25 yards rushing in that game. That, I think, was the steppingstone for our football team, to win the AFC Championship on the road and go to our first Super Bowl. I think that was the most important game that we played as a team, and the game that I enjoyed the most.

Isn't Western PA a great place to have played football? As a former player, do you still feel the playoff excitement?
JH: Actually I do. I'll be broadcasting the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game this week. I did the Green Bay-49er game last week. Yeah, this is the fun time of year. Even though I'm not playing anymore and I know that my old team is in it - but, the excitement of the playoffs is important and I kind of get wrapped up in it a little bit because, you win, you continue, and you lose you're out - it's not a best of seven. So, yes, the excitement is there - not only for the players but for an ex-player like me as well.

Jack, As a native Pittsburgher I admired your play back in the '70s. Does this Steeler team have what it takes to go all the way to New Orleans?
JH: This team does have what it takes. They have two tough playoff games if they can win them both. They have the talent on defense. Their offense has come around, it's the most improved part of their football team this year. They do have the talent to go all the way.

Jack HamWhich coach did you find more demanding in your role as a player? Also, which had a greater effect on your life after football? Coach Joe Paterno or Coach Noll? - J. Parr
JH: That would be Coach Paterno, and he was my presenter at the Hall of Fame when I was inducted. He probably had more impact because you're a 18 or 19-year-old kid, you go a lot of different directions, and then you get a guy like Joe Paterno getting you in the right direction, and not only about football but priorities in your life. Your college coach probably has more impact and that was the case for me.

Jack - Which team did you least like to play against and for what reason? - Lance Myers, New York, NY
JH: The team I least liked to play against was probably the Cowboys because there was just so much - different formations, the mental part of the game - where you had to be very prepared. It took a lot of classroom, film work to prepare for the Cowboys. Much more so than maybe a Raiders, or a Houston Oilers, or a Buffalo team.

Hi, Jack. Was there a point in your career while still playing that you ever thought you might make it to the Hall of Fame? - Fran, Lancaster, PA
JH: No. When you play the game - I played it 12 years for Pittsburgh - and you're caught in the moment of playing, you don't think about the Hall of Fame, which is five years down the road if you're fortunate, and maybe longer. I never looked that far ahead in professional football.

Was Earl Campbell the toughest running back you ever faced? - Paul Hamers
JH: Paul, you're a very astute football fan because Earl Campbell was, by far, the toughest player, running back, I ever played against. He broke my helmet and face mask a couple of times. I had to play against him THREE times a couple years because being in our division plus the playoffs. I think he also shortened my career with the injury I incurred. So, no question about it, Earl Campbell was No. 1!

What was it like growing up in "The Flood City?" Did you consider any other colleges other than PSU? - Bob Williams
JH: Johnstown was kind of a mini-Pittsburgh, and to tell you the truth, when I was growing up it was a steel town as well back then. And, I only had one scholarship offer, and that was to Penn State so it was an easy choice for me.

Hi Jack, Big fan of you and the Steelers! I bleed Black and Gold! I was wondering how you think the game has changed since you played and in your opinion if it's for the better or worse. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Let's go Steelers! Sean from Pittsburgh
JH: Well, I think that game has changed, and it has also remained constant as well. The players, linebackers, are bigger, faster, stronger - not only at the linebacking position but every position. Where the game has remained the same is that you still need to run the football effectively and play good, sound defense to be a championship football team. That's been the case back when I played, and also the case now.


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