Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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 TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Entrepreneur Robert M. “Bob” Brownlee’s contribution will allow Seton Hill University to build a brand new mathematics center and establish a new scholarship.

Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Reviews of "Annihilation" and "Mute," plus local movie news and notes.

Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

The collaboration between Penn Avenue Fish Company and Subversive Cocktails contains a wine shop, grab-and-go sushi, a bar with a late-night menu and more.

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Entrepreneur Robert M. “Bob” Brownlee’s contribution will allow Seton Hill University to build a brand new mathematics center and establish a new scholarship.

Comments

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

The collaboration between Penn Avenue Fish Company and Subversive Cocktails contains a wine shop, grab-and-go sushi, a bar with a late-night menu and more.

Comments

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Where to eat, where to go, what to buy –– some of our favorites to make your Valentine's celebration memorable.

Comments


Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

Comments

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Comments

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

They’re still playing hockey at the Winter Olympics, but without NHL players. Which means the guys doing the playing are relative nobodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Reviews of "Annihilation" and "Mute," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

We introduce the winner and the runners up for our biannual cookie table contest.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

Comments

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Comments