For anybody who thinks Steve Nash and Grant Hill can’t deliver big, Suns Head Athletic Trainer Aaron Nelson will gladly disagree with you.
With an assist from the Suns’ veteran twosome, Nelson, an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan (along with Assistant Athletic Trainer Tom Maystadt) headed to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game vs. the New York Jets during a Phoenix off-day on their recent East Coast swing.
“I wasn’t even thinking it would be a viable option,” Nelson said. “The Jets needed to win last week for them to even play Pittsburgh at home. Knowing we’d be in Philly with a day off was huge. We were taping for practice the day of the Jets-Patriots game, and I was thinking, ‘If the Jets win, they’ll play in Pittsburgh. I have to go.’ Steve says, ‘You have to go. I’ll buy your plane ticket. If the Jets win, you’re going. I’ll have Tom go with you.’ Grant came in to get taped and said, ‘I’ll get your tickets if the Jets win.’ After the Jets won, Steve sent me a photo showing the flight was booked to go. The next morning, Grant said he talked to his dad, Calvin, and he was working on getting us tickets through Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who got them from the Rooneys with the Steelers.”
With tickets in hand, the two Suns training room staffers joined the biggest crowd in Heinz Field history to brave the frigid winter weather en route to the Steelers’ 24-19 win – and more importantly – the franchise’s third impending Super Bowl appearance in the last six years.
“All week I was picking up warm articles of clothing,” Nelson said. “My wife sent me a box of my stuff, including a parka and my Troy Polamalu jersey. I picked up some thermal boots and socks and some long johns. It was still freezing cold.”
Nelson admits a trip to see his team win the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh beats battling the masses in Dallas in person to see them take on the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Still, he didn’t completely rule out missing the February 6 NFL title game, which once again falls between Suns games.
“Everything aligned perfectly for it to happen last weekend,” he said. “but it’s going to be a good game (in Dallas). The Packers are playing as good as anybody. They both have real similar styles. I think the Steelers will get them in a close game. That’s not me being a Steelers fan. That’s me being a football fan.”