Rashard Mendenhall Thinks He Can Dance

Photo courtey of the Steelers

Move over, Lynn Swann. There's a new Lord of the Dance in town. In fact, he's throwing down such a mean moonwalk to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" that you can almost hear Bengals wide-receiver-turned-failed "Dancing With the Stars" contestant Chad Ochocinco crying all the way from Cincinnati.

While Swann famously took ballet lessons in the 1970s to improve his signature balance and body control, current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall spends the off-season cutting rugs.

mendenhall

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I do salsa and Chicago stepping, which is a form of ballroom dancing," says Mendenhall. "I started taking classes when I got hurt during my rookie season."

In 2008, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis delivered a ferocious hit on Mendenhall that fractured his shoulder, ending his season in his first NFL start. It was a worst-case scenario-the kind of hit that can submarine a career before it really begins. Mendenhall watched the team's Super Bowl XLIII celebration in street clothes, an afterthought.

"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," Mendenhall says. "I learned a lot being hurt, and now I'm fully healthy and ready to rock and roll."

Without the ability to lift weights, Mendenhall signed up for a dance class at Vella Dance Studio in Bridgeville to stay in shape. He was surrounded mostly by teenage girls, who proved to be formidable competition.

"It's tough being 220 pounds and trying to keep up with dancers who are stick-thin," Mendenhall laughs. "I feel like it helps a lot with your body control-strengthening areas you wouldn't normally strengthen. As a running back, you have to be limber."

In a profession beset by runaway machismo and outsized egos, Mendenhall cuts a distinctive figure. He doesn't drink alcohol-never even had a drop. He spends his downtime reading poetry, mostly Langston Hughes.

"I go to museums a lot-even the Children's Museum," he says in hushed tones after a mini-camp workout at the Steelers' South Side practice facility.

For a first-round pick with unlimited potential, Mendenhall is inexplicably humble. Perhaps it's because he knows how quickly life can change. Growing up in a single-parent family in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, life came at him fast.

"I remember Rashard stopped showing up to practice out of the blue," recalls Joe Galambos, Mendenhall's fifth-grade coach. "I was worried, but then I found out he and his brother had to baby-sit his younger sister because his mother had to work. He had a lot of responsibility for a young man."

Despite commitments at home, Mendenhall grew to become one of the top football prospects in the state. He found a mentor in Galambos, who coached him through high school. "Financially we struggled, and coach would have us sell candy and stuff like that to afford equipment," Mendenhall recalls.

But after the highly touted running back's sophomore year at Niles West High School, his mother, Sibyl, a youth minister and teacher's aide, was unable to afford a new lease in Skokie. She planned to move the family to Chicago's troubled South Side, but Rashard and his older brother, Walter, protested. They didn't want to leave their friends and teammates. Fortunately, Galambos had a solution.

"My family decided that we had plenty of room in our home, so Rashard and his brother were able to come live with us," he says. "They were treated just the same as I treated my own two boys. There was never, ever one issue with anything-in school or after school."

"Without coach Joe, I may not be where I am today," Mendenhall says. "He helped me with things on and off the field."

When Mendenhall isn't busy teaching dance workshops in his hometown in the off-season, he often visits Galambos. "Rashard's just a regular guy who keeps the same old friends around him," says Galambos. "He's just a very simple, unselfish, wonderful person to be around. I think his attitude rubs off on everyone he's around."

For the sake of the Steelers' locker room, let's hope so.  

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.
Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.
See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

This rare video gives you a passenger's perspective of street car trolley travel in the 1960s.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.
Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

This third Renaissance has allowed us to be spectators as Pittsburgh changed from a city suffering the damages wrought by the collapse of its steel industry to a vibrant, active place known for its academic, medical and technology sectors.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Tran takes over big Burrito's Ellsworth Ave. restaurant from Dustin Gardner, who moves back to Casbah on Highland Ave.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

Some of the best oysters available in Pittsburgh can be yours for a steal at the new East Liberty spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

On day three of our Week of Wedded Bliss, we spoke to wedding photographers about their inspiration for these five enticing ring photographs from our Real Pittsburgh Wedding Couples.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Divertido and Jack + Jules close in Lawrenceville, while the neighborhood welcomes Brambler Boutique. Plus, Splurge expands to a new location in Fox Chapel.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments