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Talking Steelers Football: Joe Manganiello

Posted Jun 7, 2011



For someone who grew up in Pittsburgh’s Mt. Lebanon neighborhood, being a Steelers fan was only natural for Joe Manganiello.

So when he left the city to pursue his Hollywood acting dreams, he made sure he packed the Terrible Towel.

Manganiello stars in the HBO series “True Blood,” playing the role of werewolf Alcide Herveaux.

Prior to his current role, Manganiello played Flash Thompson in the “Spiderman” film series and had recurring roles on the television shows “How I Met Your Mother” and “One Tree Hill.”

Manganiello returned to Pittsburgh during the football season, and attended the Steelers-Jets game at Heinz Field with his fiancée Audra Marie, whom the Steelers can take partial credit for their meeting.

“I met her on the way in to the Commissioner’s party at Super Bowl XLIII,” said Manganiello. “So I guess I do give the Steelers a lot of credit. She roots for the Steelers for me now. At the Super Bowl, the Cardinals went up at the end of the game and she took my Terrible Towel and said if I wave this is it good luck. I told her yeah, it is. She started waving it. Cardinals’ fans were telling her to put it down and she kept waving it even more and we know how it ended. We watch the Steelers games together. James Harrison is her favorite player because he crushes people.”

Manganiello is featured in this installment of Talking Steelers Football.

Is being a Steelers fan something natural for you since you grew up in Mt. Lebanon?
Definitely. My dad is from Boston. He moved to Pittsburgh in the 70s right at the beginning of the dynasty.  He saw everything. He hates the Patriots more than anybody and he is from there. He is a huge Steelers fan. He raised me that way. I remember going to the police officers when I was a kid. If you asked them nicely they would give you Steelers cards. We used to collect the Steelers cards from the police outside of St. Bernard’s Elementary School. I collected those and the sticker books. I am a huge, die-hard, live and die Steelers fan.

When you hear the name Steelers, what does it make you think?
I think about hard hitting, smash-mouth football. But the bigger thing is I think about the city’s personality. The steel mills are no longer here, but the city still has that blue collar workman attitude.  It’s no frills. They don’t put up with a lot. That is why you see a lot of players that cause trouble or have character issues leave. The team doesn’t take it and the people don’t take it either. When I am in California and meet other people from Pittsburgh there is an unspoken understanding that you know they were brought up right and they have good values.

Who was your favorite player as a kid?
I had a Mean Joe Greene jersey that I wore. It said Mean Joe on the back, a little kid running around with that on his back. He was my favorite. But I loved Jack Lambert when I was a kid. Growing up Rod Woodson was one of my favorites. I actually got to play in a flag football game this past summer for the launch of Madden EA Sports 2011 against Rod Woodson. That was really fun. During Super Bowl XLIII I was wearing my Troy Polamalu jersey.

What current Steelers player are you a fan of, respect their game?
I love Troy. I love James Harrison. I am a big fan of the defense. I was a big fan of Jerome Bettis too. I think everybody in the city misses Jerome on the field a lot.

Do you watch all of the games?
I rarely miss a game. This past year I was in Hollywood, Florida making an appearance and moved my flight, paid the extra fee and all, so I could see the Miami game. I am a huge fan.

You did a documentary on Steelers fans in Los Angeles. What did it focus on?
I did one on the fans and the bars they hang out at. The stipulation was the fans I was interviewing and included in the documentary could never have been to Pittsburgh before. They had to be diehard Steelers fans that never had been there. You had fathers and sons with matching tattoos who never had been there.

In doing your documentary did it amaze you to see that kind of support for the Steelers out there?
I know why I am a fan. But these guys will literally fight someone who is wearing a Browns shirt, and they have never even been to Pittsburgh. It was more an exploration, finding out answers why they were fans. The predominant factor to make people who had never been to Pittsburgh be diehard life-long Steelers fans was the reputation. They’re hard working, blue collar fans and therefore this is my team because they are hard working and blue collar. It’s interesting to think the Steelers are so popular and have surpassed so many teams. The Cowboys boast they are America’s team, but I have found out the Steelers are the world’s team. Everybody around the world roots for the Steelers because they like that attitude and personality they carry on the field.

What current Steelers player would make a good Spiderman?
Once again I have to go with Troy Polamalu. Troy moves differently than the other players. My trainer is a semi-pro football player and he has adopted some exercises that were taken from Troy’s workout. It’s all one-legged on moving platforms, catching things while keeping your posture. It has to be Troy who would be a good Spiderman.

What current Steelers player would make a good werewolf?
James Harrison. He would make a great werewolf. He looks at you and his eyes light up yellow. I wouldn’t be surprised if James was a werewolf.  

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