An electric atmosphere filled Heinz Field on Tuesday as ninth grade students from the Pittsburgh Public Schools gathered for the kickoff of 9TH Grade Nation.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, along with Charlie Batch and Max Starks, offered their encouragement to the students who are part of the Class of 2014 and embarking on an exciting time in their lives, high school.
Tomlin got the kids fired up, asking them to "hear it" for Ninth Grade Nation. When he asked for a little more for the Steelers, the cheers got even louder.
"I'm here because I care about you," Tomlin told the students. "We've all been out there in the stands. Maybe not literally, but we've been there. I was in ninth grade once upon a time. I was a trip."
The students are all eligible to take part in the Pittsburgh Promise, which offers college scholarships to Pittsburgh Public School students who maintain a certain grade point average. Those who meet the grade criteria would receive up to $10,000 a year toward their college education.
And to get to that point the students were encouraged to do something that Tomlin himself did when he was younger – to dream big.
"The greatest advice given to me, and I really listened and heeded it – dream big," said Tomlin. "Anybody out there dream big? Raise your hands and stand up if you dream big."
After a thunderous reply, Tomlin continued with a message of inspiration for the students, encouraging them to stay on the right path.
"If you are going to dream big there are a couple of things that go with it," said Tomlin. "If you are going to dream big you have to dream in great detail. The great detail is planning. If you want to be an architect where are you going to go - to an architect school? Research it. Find out details. Get the answers of how you are going to get into the institution. Get a degree.
"Dreaming big with great detail provides the plan. Then you have to execute the plan. Is anybody capable of that out there? I am glad we have a bunch of big dreamers here. I encourage you to dream big in great detail. I have a plan for you. And with that plan you have to have the fortitude to put it action and make sure your daily actions lead you toward the dream."
Tomlin shared his dream when he was in high school and is proof positive that it can be achieved if you stick with it and don't let distractions get in the way.
"My chosen vocation was football," said Tomlin. "I had friends that wanted to do different things, similar to the friends that you guys have. I wasn't interested in smoking dope. I wasn't interested in skipping school. I wasn't interested in doing anything that wasn't going to make this football guy.
"I dare you to be so bold. I dare you because it's hard. But do it because you will make us all proud and continue to add to the legacy of Pittsburgh and make this the greatest place to live in the world."