I figured that now would be a good time to post another blog. On Wednesday, we had a special guest appearance to our shootaround by Super Bowl Champ Ben Roethlisberger. For those of you who are solely NBA (Phoenix Suns) fans, Ben is the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For those that don’t know me, I am a huge Steelers fan (since I was 4 years old). My high school football jersey wore #88 in respect for Lynn Swann (my favorite receiver growing up). I am always being pummeled with abuse about my love for the Steelers by both the players and the coaching staff. Last season was great for me because I could daily inflict all of them with torture about how good the Steelers were—all the way to their Super Bowl win. Coach D’Antoni (a Browns fan), even had to wear a Steelers hat during a practice and for post-practice interviews after the beating his team took from the hands of the Steelers.
Now, on to the original story.
Last year, there was a charity event at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge called Celebrity Fight Night. Steve Nash was one of the celebrities to be in attendance. A couple of days before the event, Steve said that Ben Roethlisberger was going to be there. The Steelers had just won the Super Bowl, so he knew that would excite me.
This entire story will show just what kind of guy Steve Nash is if you weren’t sold on how nice and down to earth he really is.
Steve asked me if I wanted him to take a jersey to get autographed. It just so happened that prior to the start of the NFL season, I had an authentic #7 Roethlisberger jersey made by our associates at Reebok via NFL Onfield Apparel. It had/has extra sentimental meaning because I was wearing it when I proposed to my then girlfriend/now wife at our fantasy football draft. (I selected her with my first pick in front of many unknowing family and friends). It would be the perfect jersey to have signed. So, Steve took the jersey to the event and carried it around with him the entire night. He searched for Ben’s table and asked him if he would mind signing the jersey. Come to find out, Ben is a huge basketball fan and a fan of Steve Nash. Steve offered to sign one of his own jerseys (as a swap). Ben signed the jersey “Aaron—Congratulations on your engagement! We won it for you! Ben Roethlisberger #7.” It doesn’t get much better then that! Ben and Steve exchanged phone numbers and that was that.
Fast forward to this week.
Ben called Steve on Monday to see if he was going to the BCS game Monday night. Steve told him no, but asked if he wanted to come to our shootaround on Tuesday morning. He obviously said yes, but it was still unknown by all of us. Tuesday morning I got a call from Steve asking if Coach was in the arena yet. I arrive early and hadn’t seen him. Steve asked if I had a different number for him because he really needed to talk to him. Steve and I are good friends and I thought it was strange that he wouldn’t say why he needed to talk to him, but Coach D’Antoni’s approval for Ben to come to shootaround was the reason and Steve wanted to keep it as a secret from me.
We shoot at 9:45am on home game days and about 9:00am, Steve came walking in with Big Ben. Several of us were in the training room and I couldn’t believe it. I have been around many NBA stars and other celebrities and it doesn’t even phase me. But, when the starting quarterback for your lifelong favorite football team comes around, it can be flat out exciting. I was speechless for a few minutes while several of the players and coaches laughed at me. The crazy thing about all of it, everyone else was about as excited as I was (asking for autographs and pictures). Maybe it was because they all felt they already knew him in some way because of my daily taunts during the NFL season about Ben and all of the Steelers.
Coach allowed Ben to go through the entire shootaround. We got him some Suns gear and shoes and he did everything from the film sessions to the shooting drills with the guards. He is a big quarterback (6’5” 245lbs) and held his own during the shooting, making most of his shots.
After practice he came back up to the locker room for pictures and more autographs. He even signed a basketball for my wife and me. My wife and her family are all huge Steelers fans as well, so they were equally excited. Ben finally got the autographed jersey Steve had promised him, then Steve drove Ben and two of his friends back to their hotel in north Scottsdale. They couldn’t stay for the game because they had a plane to catch a few hours later. Maybe he will make another visit in the playoffs! Who knows?!
Go Steelers! And Suns!!