Recently signed offensive tackle D'Anthony Batiste had dreams of playing in the NFL when he came out of Louisiana-Lafayette University in 2004. But when the NFL Draft rolled around, his phone never rang.
With the NFL not an immediate possibility, and finding a way to support newborn twins on his mind, Batiste looked into playing in the Canadian Football League. He had tryouts, but no luck. He eventually signed with the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings of the Arena Football League. But he needed something else, a steady income, and the football dream wasn't panning out yet.
Batiste, a criminal justice major in college, decided to put his degree to work by joining the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office. It was to make a solid income and keep his family fed.
"A family and kids can't eat dreams," said Batiste. "Once I decided to put my degree to work and got into law enforcement, it was time to work."
His first assignment was as a corrections officer, a tough first draw but something he had no problem with.
"It's a completely different life," said Batiste. "You just have to treat people like you want to be treated. I always kept that even keel. That built a lot of my resilience. That is one of the things in my life that strengthened me."
Batiste continued on the law enforcement path, graduating from Acadiana Law Enforcement Training Academy as a sheriff deputy. His family was proud of him, but he still had the football dream.
"A lot of the greatest times in my life have been through football and the victories that come with it," said Batiste. "I love the camaraderie, the good times and the time you spend with your teammates.
"You get to know what people are like in crunch times through playing football."
That "crunch time" came a few weeks after he became a sheriff deputy when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with a furor. Devastation was everywhere. And even though Lafayette didn't take the hit, it was the place where everyone went to seek refuge.
Batiste patrolled everything from FEMA trailers that became part of neighborhoods, to hospitals where some of the worst victims of the hurricane were cared for.
"I was doing a security route at one of the Lafayette general hospitals and they were bringing in some of the accident victims from New Orleans," recalled Batiste. "It was chaos in New Orleans and a lot of people were trying to get out and get out fast. I saw an accident victim that was riding a motorcycle and a semi-truck struck him. To see the shape he was in..."
Batiste paused, clearly still impacted by the memories and the horror.
"It was unreal," he continued. "To see the devastation that someone wearing a helmet could still be in.
"It made the panic and pandemonium surreal for me."
Just as Batiste was starting to think law enforcement would be his future, things started to change. His former college teammate and roommate, and current Steelers' teammate, Ike Taylor told him about trainer Tom Shaw, who works with some of the best in the game. He used his vacation time to work with Shaw. And eventually, his patience paid off.
The Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian League signed him in 2006, and then the Dallas Cowboys. Two years after it appeared the NFL dream was dead it was alive again.
"I have been through a lot in my career," said Batiste. "Having the opportunity to come back in the league and play as long as I have been able keeps me confident."
The Steelers are the seventh team he has been with and he is hoping this is a place where he will be able to catch on for a while, providing depth on the line and doing whatever is asked of him. One thing is for sure, he won't give up without trying.
"A lot of guys that spent a lot of time in the correction facility, you get to know them and they get to know you," said Batiste. "They knew me from playing college football and asked why I wasn't playing football. It's like asking them why they didn't make the right decisions.
"Life is about getting knocked down and getting back up. I had to do a lot of that during my career."