Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, Rick Holman, a diehard fan and season ticket holder from Beaver, Pa., has never missed a Steelers game at home. We are talking preseason, regular season and the playoffs. Not one game has he missed. Oh, and he’s also been to all three Super Bowls the team has played in since 2001.
It's a 17-year streak that started when he was in college and has now led to national recognition as a member of the inaugural class of the Ford Hall of Fans. Created to pay tribute to the biggest fanatics in the sport, the Ford Hall of Fans will give the most diehard fans a place of honor in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, right alongside the players they've supported for so many years.
Holman and his streak were the focus of a Steelers Nation Unite "Traditions" video last season, where he explained how he decided he needed to be at Heinz Field when the stadium opened. Selling what he describes as "his entire life" to come up with the money to make it happen, Holman found a seat license for sale and purchased one ticket for the 2001 season. He made it to every game that year, and has been in the stadium every time the team has played since, albeit in a number of different locations.
It was that video that helped Ford discover Holman's story. When the company reached out to him around Thanksgiving last year, Holman admits he was skeptical at first, not knowing if it was a legitimate contest because he had never heard of the Hall of Fans before. He quickly realized it was for real.
A few days after that first call from Ford, Holman had a production crew is in his living room with what he described as a "Hollywood studio" of equipment, cameras and lights, telling the story about his streak and his fandom. What Holman thought was just going to be a standard interview turned out to be anything but that. That moment of clarity occurred when there was a knock at his front door in the middle of the interview. He almost couldn't believe his eyes when he opened it to find Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw standing there to congratulate him on being nominated for the Ford Hall of Fans.
"I opened the door, there was Terry and I pretty much lost it," said Holman. "I lost my composure. Tears were coming down my face. I couldn't comprehend what the big deal was [with the interview] until I opened the front door and there he was...it's Terry Bradshaw. If there was any Steelers player to ever to come to your house, I would pick him. Watching him on television my entire life and then there he is walking in my house, I lost my mind. I never would have expected it."
After trying on Bradshaw's Hall of Fame Gold Jacket, showing him his memorabilia and even playing catch with him in the driveway, Holman realized just how exciting, and nerve-wracking, the next few weeks would be, as he waited to find out if he was a finalist for the Ford Hall of Fans. Luckily, Steelers Nation was more than willing to help out and voted daily to help make a Holman a finalist for induction.
Holman was in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII, nervously waiting for the news just like the Hall of Fame finalists.
"I was pacing. I slept about a half hour that night. I was tossing and turning all night,” Holman said. “I was waiting in the hotel room [on Friday morning], I had my Terry Bradshaw jersey on and I was just pacing.”
On Friday morning a knock at the door came. This time, it was Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker on the other side. In the same fashion that Baker delivers the good news to players when they make into the Hall of Fame, he had come to let Holman know that he was a member of the inaugural class of the Ford Hall of Fans.
Overcome with emotion and excitement, Holman couldn't help but think of how this induction was not about just him. It was about Steelers Nation and how his place in the Ford Hall of Fans at the Pro Football Hall of Fame represents the entire black and gold family.
Ever since the good news came out he can barely keep up with all of the texts, calls and tweets he has received from family, friends and fans around the world.
"Once it started getting out there, I had fans from Mexico, London and all over the world reaching out to me," Holman said. "Steelers Nation is worldwide. I made a lot of friends from everywhere [during this process]. I heard from family members who I hadn't talked to in years and friends I went to school with. I can't even keep up with it. It's amazing.
"As I've said all along, it's not just about me. In Pittsburgh we stick together. I'm representing the Steelers and all the fans who helped me get there. They're all part of it. I'm just so thankful. It's hard to put into words, to be honest."
A self-described "under the radar" guy, Holman couldn't imagine that all of this would have happened when he sold off so many of his possessions to buy that first seat license back in 2001. Now, Holman awaits his official induction into the Ford Hall of Fans, which will come on Hall of Fame weekend during the preseason. And, of course, he's looking forward to continuing his streak of perfect attendance at Heinz Field when the team begins the 2019 season.
"It's crazy to even say or think about," Holman said of being part of this display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "To be able to walk in and see [the display], it's going to be incredible."