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Community Spotlight: Brett Keisel

Posted Sep 17, 2014

Defensive end Brett Keisel takes pride in giving back to the Pittsburgh community.

Name: Brett Keisel
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 13
College: Brigham Young
Community/Charitable Affiliations: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Shear Da Beard, Cystic Fibrosis, as well as attending Steelers team events and events hosted by teammates such as Project Bundle-Up, Steelers Style Fashion Show, Glimmer of Hope, Heroes at Heinz Field and Make-a-Wish visits.

From the day he arrived in Pittsburgh, Brett Keisel understood what it meant to be a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. It was about holding up a tradition, one forged years before him of excellent play on the field and a commitment to the community off the field.
Keisel saw the example set by the veterans already on the team, from individual events the players hosted to team events they turned out for in hordes, he understood what was important.

“The biggest thing is you see the older guys and how involved they are and how much they care about the community,” said Keisel, ther Steelers Walter Peyton Man of the Year in 2011. “That is a big strength of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the involvement in the community. That is something we take pride in and take pride in teaching the younger guys that it’s important to give back and stay active in the community.

“I have been so blessed, my family has been so blessed, and I was taught to give back, help those in need, those less fortunate. I feel it’s important for my wife Sarah and I to do it now so our kids can learn the lesson. Sarah is so great with staying involved with the community too and never losing sight of how lucky we have it to have all of the blessings we have.”

That’s why when Keisel was approached to visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center while the team was in Baltimore last week to play the Ravens, he didn’t hesitate. He joined a contingent that included teammates Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, as well as Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney Sr. and President Art Rooney II, to spend time picking up the spirits of true American heroes.

“It really puts things into perspective,” said Keisel. “Having the opportunity to meet these men and women who have made such a sacrifice, they have lost limbs, and they have lost brothers, sisters, friends fighting for our country. It’s eye-opening and focusing as far as what is important in life.”

This is just the latest in a long list of activities Keisel participates in. For a guy who can be an intimidating figure with his 6-5, 285 pound frame and mountain man beard, he is one of the most caring and giving people you will ever meet.

Keisel also has a passion for helping the kids at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC. For the past four years he hosted Shear Da Beard, shaving off his famous beard to benefit the hospital’s cancer programs.  He makes numerous visits to kids at the hospital, most of those without the glaring lights of television cameras.

“Whether it is a surprise visit to a child at the hospital, or Brett’s annual fundraising event, ‘Shear Da Beard,’ there is no one who creates more enthusiasm and joy than Brett Keisel,” said Greg Barrett, President of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. “Brett is a great friend to Children’s Hospital and a great role model for all of us. He truly understands that our children are our most valuable asset, and he has committed himself to ensuring the children of this region get the care they need and deserve.”

Keisel does it because as a father of three, he knows what it means to have healthy children and he cares about those who are going through tough times. He also annually takes several patients from Children’s on a fishing adventure, spending the day enjoying one of his favorite pastimes with kids that it means the world to.

“To have the opportunity to give kids who might not have been fishing in a long time or ever, and to take them out there and throw a rod in their hand and put a vest on their chest, and let them relax and enjoy being in the great outdoors and everything that comes with it is special,” said Keisel. “This last year was special because of the kids we had, one kid in particular named Marty who has been in and out of the hospital since he was born. He has issues, but it doesn’t keep him down. He is the happiest kid in the world. Before I even met him he jumped on me and wrapped his arms around me and told me how excited he was.

“It soaked in with all of us. He is one of those special kids that when you are around him, it changes your life.”

Keisel changes a lot of lives as well. He hosts the annual 65 Roses Sports Auction for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Western Pennsylvania Chapter, and he doesn’t just show up at the event, he cares about the kids impacted and gets to know them on a personal basis.

“Brett is one of the people I respect the most and always have,” said Pat Joseph, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis. “It’s so special to have him involved with us. Brett truly cares about the cystic fibrosis community. He has grown with us since we have been privileged enough to have him as our chairperson.

“He is one of those jewels that really care. He cares about the kids, the families. He has that passion in him. He knows what it means, how important a cause it is, and he cares. It’s notable and rather rare to see it and we just love it.”