Joe Greene paused for a moment. He had been talking about a man who meant a great deal to him. Then he stopped, and simply stated what was in his heart.
"He was a special man," said Greene.
Joe Greene and Garrett Webster, the son of late Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster, served as honorary co-chairs for the Steelers Charity Walk that benefited the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research.
Greene was talking about his former coach, the late Chuck Noll, and was doing so as he prepared to get the Steelers Charity Walk going at Saint Vincent College on Saturday morning. Greene, along with Garrett Webster, the son of late Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster, served as honorary co-chairs for the walk that benefited the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research.
"Chuck is so important to the Steelers and for me," said Greene. "He was a special person, a special coach. He was more than a coach to me. He was a mentor. The way he approached his team, the things that he said on a daily basis, were meaningful. He approached the team a special way. There were so many words of wisdom and ways of doing things that later in life you could live by. We talk about them all of the time. Rarely does a week go by that I don't think about something Chuck said, what he did or the way he did things. He was just impactful. He was so important to getting the Steelers started. Not just what he meant to the Steelers, but the City of Pittsburgh. He changed the culture. And he did so much beyond that. He really was a special man.
"To be associated with this project, in this fashion is important to me. He was such a great part of this organization. We want to carry on his legacy. What better way to do it than through this foundation."
The foundation's mission is to help provide funding for "research projects relating to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries of the brain occurring primarily in sports activities." The Steelers made an initial $1 million donation when it was founded in Nov. 2016, and Steelers fans were able to do their part by participating in the walk.
A rainy morning didn't dampen the enthusiasm of those taking part, who heard stories about Noll from an emotional Greene before hitting the trails.
"It's amazing on a day like this to fill the room up here for our first time doing the walk," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "It's a great start. Joe being Chuck's first draft choice it was appropriate to have him be one of our co-captains. Mike Webster was a special player, who unfortunately had troubles after his career. That is part of the reason we are starting the foundation. To do research and make sure we are supporting the people who are trying to resolve this. There is a lot of work being done for this. It was great for Garrett to be here and lend his family's name to the effort."
Noll was a coach who was committed to his players, caring about them on and off the field. It was that commitment that eventually led to the development of the ImPACT test, a post-concussion assessment and cognitive test now used by the NFL, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and by over 12,000 colleges and high schools in the United States. And it all began with encouragement from Noll.
"Here in Western Pennsylvania we are doing more about it in terms of research than anywhere in the entire country," said Steelers and world-renowned neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, MD, who co-founded the ImPACT test. "This has been ground zero for head injury management, beginning with Coach Noll in the 1990s when he urged us to perfect the cognitive test called ImPACT to evaluate players before the season and then subsequently afterwards if they had a concussion.
"This was Chuck Noll's doing."