From Steelers ball boy to Four-Star General, yes that is the path that retired General Michael Hayden actually took.
General Hayden, the former CIA director and director of the National Security Agency (NSA), was born in Pittsburgh and thanks to the relationship his family had with the Rooney family landed the ball boy job.
He has come a long way, a really long way, but he will never forget where he started, sharing the story when he was in Pittsburgh recently visiting with Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.
"I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Rooney," said General Hayden. "He was my paycheck going to college. I would work for the Steelers in the summer and then work the sidelines during the season. Then every Christmas I would get a check from the Steelers that was a significant fraction of my tuition at Duquesne University. I worked hard for that. In training camp we had two-a-days, working all day, and we had 80 players.
"Mr. Rooney symbolizes Pittsburgh, the work ethic and the values. He also symbolizes the old neighborhood. We grew up at St. Peter's together. His brothers and my aunt went to school together. We knew the Rooney family. It was part of the parish neighborhood family growing up. They were very generous to us. They gave me work. They would bring the St. Peter's grade school football team to the games at Forbes Field and wave us all through the gate to watch the game."
To this day, General Hayden still makes his way to Steelers games, a season-ticket holder who makes the trek back to Pittsburgh every chance he gets.
"I think I made five of the eight games this year myself," said General Hayden. "We share them with the kids. It's not impossible to get up on Sunday, go to early mass, drive here, watch the game and get in the car and drive home.
"I have watched the Steelers play from Guam, from the basement of the Marine house in Albania, sitting in Korea watching them at three in the morning when the games came on."
General Hayden, who recently released his book,* **Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, *also had the chance to visit with offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva.
"When I heard he was here I wanted to meet him," said Villanueva. "He is very well known for what he has done in the National Security Agency. He is a great guy, a smart general, and has a lot of respect in the military.
"I knew he was a huge Steelers fan. It's fun to have someone that high profile rooting for the Steelers."