1st and 10 with Allen Rossum
First and 10 is a feature that runs in Steelers Digest, the official publication of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Return specialist Allen Rossum took time out to talk with Teresa Varley and shared his thoughts about punt and kickoff returns, hard hits and his family.
1.What goes through your mind when you are standing there waiting for the ball to come to you?
The first thing that goes through my mind is to figure out where the ball is going to land and catch it. That is the most important thing, ball security. Then after I catch it I let natural instincts take over. I never say I am going to step this way first or anything like that. Every return is different. I may have a lot of room; I may have no room at all. It all varies.
2. What is the feeling when you have the ball in your hands and you see a crease of daylight in front of you?
It's going to slow. I got about a 13-yard return against Seattle and Coach Ligs commented on it and I thought it was about a three-yard return. It happens so fast that it doesn't seem like I went anywhere. Then at times when everything is wide open and there is a humungous hole it seems like I am going so slow, like I am barely moving. It seems like I should be running a lot faster. It varies.
3. What was the hardest hit anyone ever put on you? Did you see it coming?
It was a Monday night game against the Cowboys when I was playing for Philadelphia. I had a great game. At the end of the game I had a fair catch on a punt. Right before I caught it a guy ran right through me. I laid there for a little bit. It was the hardest I was ever hit. I didn't see it coming at all. When you see a hit coming you can prepare for it mentally or physically, brace yourself for it. Those ones you don't see coming, when you are looking up, those are the worst ones.
4. What do you prefer – punt returns or kickoff returns and why?
Right now kickoff returns because we are having more success. But I do love returning punts. If you make one guy miss the opportunity to score is a lot higher percentage than on kickoff returns. On kickoff returns guys have a long way to run and they can see everything developing in front of them, plus you have a couple of safeties sitting there. Punt returns you have the gunners who are trying to gun for you. The only safety net is maybe the punter. You don't want to let the punter tackle you, but it happens. I like them 50/50, but we just are having more success on the kickoff returns.
5. What skill set does each require?
Punt return and kickoff return are two totally different things. They are two totally different balls. One is a tight spiral that at times turns over and at times doesn't. Kickoff is an easier catch because it is a spiral and you can tell where it is going to land. It's a totally different mindset. You can run forward and catch a kickoff return. Not many people can run forward with a full head of steam and catch a punt. You have to be set with punt returns because the ball can change at any moment because of the style of kick that it is.
6. You wasted no time having an impact on this team with your touchdown return. Is there pressure to keep it up once you do that?
Nobody can put more pressure on me than myself. I am harder on myself than anybody, than any coach can be. I am always looking for a big return. But I also have to be patient for those five and 10-yard returns or when Najeh (Davenport) holds me in on a kickoff return, I have to be patient with those things. They are paid to do a job too. I have to listen to him, listen to my coaches, read my blocks and not expect every one to go for a touchdown, even though I do want them too. The beauty of this thing is we have a humungous upside because we haven't had that much time together. We are starting to have more success as we are together. Just watching film and seeing how hard these guys are working gives me confidence in everything that I want to do out on the field. I am always looking forward to the next day, the next game. I get more and more excited and confident. Confidence is the biggest thing. It's about whoever is going to have the most confidence and intellectual ability in knowing what to do. We all watch film, we all lift weights and we all run. It comes down to the mental edge.
7. You have lasted 10 years in this league mainly as a return man. How have you been able to have that kind of longevity?
The first thing you have to do is have some great guys who are going to block for you. They have to be dedicated to sacrifice their body for you. Blocking is a hard thing. I have tried it and don't like it. Second you have to have a great scheme. You have to have coaches who will put you in the right position and scheme for you to have success. You also have to have coaches who will let you be yourself and not feel like a robot. Sometimes you are going to take chances and it's not going to work out. Sometimes you are going to take chances and it's going to look like you are a genius. You have to have a lot of courage to play this long because you are going to have some ups and downs, bumps and bruises. But success comes along with that, along with hard work.
8. What was it like for you to come to a team at the start of the season, after sweating it out with another team in camp? How accepting were the players from the start and how are things now?
It was very accepting from a lot of players. I knew a couple of players prior to coming here. The secondary is always a close-knit group. I knew Deshea (Townsend) and Hines (Ward) since we all came out together the same year. I guess you can say we are all old. I had known them and a few other guys. I just tried to fit it. I didn't try to change anything, just fit in with what they were doing. I didn't try to be the type of guy who likes to do it my way. I think I was accepted more that way.
9. With your wife being a Steelers fan, before coming to the team were there ever times she cheered for the Steelers and you didn't want her to?
Last year when I was with Atlanta the Steelers came to town and her parents came for the game and they are Steelers fans. They wanted to sit with her in the Falcons section and cheer for the Steelers unless I was on the field. I told them it wasn't happening, that they weren't getting tickets that way. Whatever team I am on I get family support, but now I am hearing I can finally cheer for my favorite team and for you. It's been a great year. She is a huge football fan. She asks me a ton of questions after every game and all I want to do is relax. I wish I could put her questions on a tape recorder and answer them later. She has a million questions about each play. It's funny. I laugh at it. She is so in to the game. She is in to basketball the same way. It makes it fun to go to a sporting event with your wife and it's not a drag, she isn't bored and doesn't want to go home. She is a huge sports fan and I love it.
10. You have four daughters. Do they all have daddy wrapped around their little finger? You wouldn't believe it. They can make me do anything, unless they have been bad. I am a stickler on education and discipline as far as minding adults and showing respect. But other than that if we are in a store and they want something they are about to get it. It will be my wife saying no they have too much. But I am a sucker for my daughters.