Kevin Colbert's eyes always light up when he talks about his three grandkids. He treasures the time he spends with them, and would do anything in the world to protect them and keep them safe.
He wants nothing but the best for them.
And that includes playing sports.
Colbert has two young grandsons, Colby and Brock, and a granddaughter, Avery, who already has taken up dance. He hopes his grandsons play sports, and when it comes to football, he wouldn't hesitate for a minute if they played.
"I would have no apprehension whatsoever if they want to do it," said Colbert, the Steelers general manager.
Colbert delivered a similar message at the Steelers Cookout and Tailgate at Saint Kilian Parish in Cranberry, an event he has hosted for the past 15 years as part of the Men's Club, expanding it this year to anyone interested in attending.
It's an evening filled with watching the Steelers highlight film, raffle prizes and tailgate treats, with those in attendance having the opportunity to spend quality time getting all the latest on the team during a Q & A with Colbert.
This year, though, he changed it up a little bit.
"In the past I've encouraged parents informally to have their kids play sports," said Colbert. "This year it was more formal. I encouraged them to give thought to their children being involved in an activity, and hopefully it's football."
The first step, though, was to show that it's safe to play sports, and football in particular, for young kids.
"The bottom line in my opinion, any physical activity in a game you are subject to the possibility of an injury," said Colbert. "I think it's far more harmful not to be athletically active. Any sport has a risk involved. I tell parents if your child plays football, that's great. Encourage them if they want to play. It's also your obligation to go watch them practice, see what they are being taught, see how they practice, see what equipment they are wearing, and make sure it's up to the standards you believe need to be in place and don't be afraid to ask if it isn't."
Colbert's own children were all involved in sports, his two daughters, Kacie and Jennie, excelled in dance, and his son Dan, now a scout with the team, played baseball, hockey, basketball and football. And he didn't hesitate when it came to making sure they were safe.
"I would always ask if they had the proper footwear on, why do they jump so much, and what about the landing," said Colbert. "What is the possibility of injury? The different types of injuries they could sustain and they did sustain. That is part of the activity and the benefit far outweighs the potential drawback."
Colbert was joined by youth coaches from the North Pittsburgh Catholic Ironmen League, as well as those from his alma mater North Catholic, who were able to offer perspectives of how the game has become safer, as well as other sports becoming safer.
The NFL has taken huge steps in making the game safer, and that has trickled down to the pee wee level, where the Steelers are one of the biggest proponents of 'Heads Up Football,' a program that promotes safe tackling.
"People are more aware now how to play any game safer," said Colbert. "I read an article that maybe mandating girls wear headwear when they play soccer for the headers. With youth hockey they have stop signs on the back of a kid's jersey so they know not to hit when a kid is facing you. I think those types of things are prevalent thinking and there is nothing wrong with that. If it can promote safety within the game, and that same promotion increases the participation in a game, I think that's a good thing.
"At any level it's not going to be at the professional speed and contact. I try to tell people those guys weren't born professional football players. At one point they were sitting in those chairs, or they were in school thinking about doing it and they did it. It's not saying anybody is going to be a pro. It's just that the benefits of playing a sports far outweigh the possible drawbacks of not playing."
And what does Colbert believe are the benefits and values you get from playing sports?
"Teamwork, physical and mental toughness, and loyalty," said Colbert. "The ability to work and play amongst other people that may come from the same background as you, or may not. There are so many benefits that come from team activity."