LATROBE, Pa. – When Alan Faneca retired from the NFL in 2010, he did so without any regrets. He was ready to step away from the game that turned into a 13-year NFL career, including playing for the Steelers from 1998-2007.
But lately he has gotten an itch to get close to the game again, one that had him place a call to Coach Mike Tomlin this offseason to inquire about getting a feel for what the coaching profession is like.
"I told him I was interested in checking out the coaching world and seeing what it was all about," said Faneca. "He told me I could start by coming to OTAs and that is what got the ball rolling.
"I thought about it for a couple of years. It just wasn't a right time for my family and I. Now we hit a point where it was like, hey remember that. I retired, didn't do anything, chased the kids, had fun with the family and enjoyed that. Then you hit a point where it's time to find something to do. I always had a passion for helping the younger guys when I was playing so it seemed like a natural place to start and check things out."
Faneca is volunteering with the Steelers' coaching staff during training camp, assisting offensive line coach Mike Munchak with his group and gaining valuable experience for something he might want to explore further.
"I am just interested in getting the full grasp of everything," said Faneca. "I know what it is to be a player and what I go through to do that. Now to see the coach's world and what they do on a daily basis. I saw the offseason, now I see a little bit closer to the regular season, training camp mode, just to get a grasp of everything."
Faneca said it's definitely eye-opening to see the amount of work the coaches put in, including the preparation just for one practice, but that is all part of the learning process.
"As a player you think you go out there and just start going through drills and maybe there isn't a purpose to it," said Faneca. "There is a purpose and a method to the madness. There is preparation that goes into a practice to slowly roll you into team and group periods that builds upon getting there.
"I always thought when I was a player no way am I ever going to be a coach. Those guys work too long. Going through OTAs and the schedule, coaches do put in more hours than players. Players are doing things when coaches aren't, the running, lifting and training. The gap is not as much as I originally thought as a player."
Faneca joked that it took a little bit of time watching practice film to acknowledge that it wasn't him wearing No. 66 on the field anymore but instead guard David DeCastro, but he is loving watching the film in an effort to help younger players.
"It's different when you are not a player, and you are watching and analyzing the situation and players individually," said Faneca. "That's a fun process to be able to find something. You don't harp on a guy when you see one little thing. But you start seeing it a couple of times you pull him aside and say check this out, work on this, I have seen it a couple of times. You try and find things, little things, to try and help them out."
Faneca, who was a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist this past year, said while he doesn't know where coaching will lead him, he is just going to enjoy the journey. "I really enjoy being around the game," said Faneca. "I didn't know I would have as much fun as I am. I didn't miss the game when I left. I was at peace when I made the decision to retire. Guys ask if being out here makes me miss it even more. I don't and they got a chuckle out of that.
"It's fun to be around the game. When people ask me when you are done what do you miss about the game, you miss the guys, Sundays, playoffs."