Wood-Be Gentleman

Pittsburgh Steeler LaMarr Woodley demonstrates humility and class, both on the field and off.




Photo by Mike Fabus, Pittsburgh Steelers
 

 

It was midnight, and LaMarr Woodley was preparing for the graveyard shift. Just hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers had suffered a demoralizing, late-November overtime loss to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, the team plane touched down at Pittsburgh International Airport.

All the players were stunned, shoe-gazing and more than ready to go home and sleep off the gut-punching loss. Everyone except for Woodley, the team’s 25-year-old star linebacker.

Wasting no time, Woodley tossed his suitcase into his SUV and tore up I-80 heading north. He drove for hours, winding around the cusp of Lake Erie until the black horizon turned purple. Finally, at the break of dawn, he reached the blighted manufacturing city of Saginaw, Mich., his hometown.

People were already lining up on the windswept front lawn of the Civitan Rec Center—the free gym where Woodley spent most of his childhood. Their faces lit up when they saw their hero, who was carrying bags of household items for the approaching Thanksgiving holiday. For three hours, Woodley and other volunteers gave out napkins, plates, forks, dish detergent and other essential items to more than 500 families.

“Win or lose, it’s important to put the game aside,” Woodley explains. “I made a commitment to the community that I would be there, so I had to fulfill that promise.”

Twenty-four hours later, he was back in Pittsburgh handing out frozen turkeys at a recreation center in Hazelwood.

On the field, Woodley’s strongest asset is what pundits like to call his “motor.” Or, in non-gridiron speak, his heart. A first-time Pro Bowler in 2009, Woodley racked up 25 sacks in the past two seasons. Only four NFL players have more in that span. Yet the second-round draft pick from the University of Michigan makes less money than the backup goaltender of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Currently in the final year of his rookie contract, worth $550K this season, Woodley had every right to join in on the NFL’s hottest summer trend—holding out of training camp for a raise. The Tennessee Titans’ stud running back Chris Johnson did it. Even $100 million man Albert Haynesworth was a no-show at the Washington Redskins’ mini-camp because of hurt feelings over trade rumors.

But when the Steelers opened the doors of their South Side training facility for optional team workouts in May, there was Woodley, crushing tackling dummies in the pouring rain when he could have been at home relaxing on a “Dora the Explorer” marathon with his 2-year-old daughter, Gabrielle.

“If I miss workouts and training camp, I not only hurt myself, but I hurt the team,” he says. “I don’t want to fall behind because I’m worried about dollar signs.”

At times, Woodley’s immense strength and anticipation on the field make him look like a man among boys. The same could be said about his humility and class in a league that has been sullied by tawdry Tweets, lavatorial lasciviousness and camera-phone preening. But at the Boys & Girls Club in Wilkinsburg, where Woodley also volunteers, he’s just one of the kids.

“I was there when LaMarr first showed up at the club, and it was like magic,” says Mike Hepler, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. “He spent at least four hours playing ping-pong, basketball and pool with the kids. Later that day, I went downstairs where everyone was having snacks, and there was LaMarr eating a big bowl of tuna fish like all the other kids.”

But that’s not Hepler’s favorite Woodley story. When Woodley first arrived at the club, he was submerged in a sea of excited kids who were far from awe-struck, Hepler recalls. A little girl came running up to the 265-pound linebacker with her hand raised to the sky. “Mister LaMarr,” she said, “do you have a girlfriend?” Woodley disarmed her with his warm smile, but then it was the boys’ turn to grill him. “Mister LaMarr,” one kid piped up, “how much money do you make?”

Woodley thought about it for a few seconds, then said, “Enough.”

What a refreshing answer.

If there is one man who deserves mega-money from the Steelers, it’s Woodley. After all, he has a knack for paying it back in spades.

**

Want to reach out to LaMarr? You can follow him on his official Facebook and Twitter pages.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.
Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module