Banaszak: 'It matured me a lot'

Former Steelers defensive lineman John Banaszak will join an illustrious group when he is inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame on July 12.

Banaszak, who is currently the head football coach at Robert Morris University, will be inducted with three others, including Clifford Battles, Tommy Loughran, and Dusty Baker, at the ceremony at National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

"It really is special for me," said Banaszak. "I am humbled and honored to receive this honor. I have talked about what the Marine Corps meant to me and did for me my rookie year going into training camp, making training camp like Parris Island and boot camp. For this to occur is special. It's special and an honor for me to represent the Steelers in this great Hall of Fame."

The Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame, which was established in 2001, honors former Marines who have excelled both on and off the playing field. A total of 45 Marines have been inducted, including legendary Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente.

Banaszak went through Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island in 1969, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune for three months, and then with the 2nd Marine Air Wing at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for the remainder of his two years of active duty. Banaszak was a non-combat Marine, serving as a supply clerk, but was part of missions with the Air Supply unit going to the Mediterranean. He received the National Defense Service Medal and Rifle Expert Badge. He also served as a reservist from January 15, 1971 to January 14, 1975.

"When I was active duty, it was a period in time at 18, 19 years old that I needed to focus on what I had to do in order to live the rest of my life," said Banaszak. "The Marine Corps gave me an awful lot of guidance as to what I needed to do to become successful. It matured me a lot. There are a lot of kids that at that age think they are tough guys. I thought I was a tough guy. I had no idea what I was getting into when I joined. They taught me not only to be a tough guy, but they taught me to be a smart, tough guy. That was the biggest effect it gave me. I became a kid who all of a sudden set goals for himself and started to achieve those goals."

One of those goals was making it into the NFL and playing for the Steelers from 1975-81, and being a part of three Super Bowl championship teams. He said what he learned in the Marine Corps, including the values, transferred over to his football career.

"The Marine Corps and what it represents, it's honor, courage and commitment," said Banaszak. "I know the model franchise in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have those three words attached…honor, courage and commitment. When those three ingredients become part of your life, you are going to become successful and achieve your goals and ambitions.

"It's still very much a part of me. You have to be able to believe in yourself first. You have to have the courage to challenge the impossible. You have to have the commitment that nothing is going to stop you from attainting your goals. Those are the virtues I got instilled in me in the Marine Corps."

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