By Teresa Varley
When Coach Mike Tomlin got on the phone with number one draft pick Ziggy Hood to let him know he was now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hood's new boss joked with him about his former job.
"The first thing he said was he wanted an Extra Long Chili Cheese Coney from Sonic, where I used to work," said Hood, who spent his evenings working at the drive in restaurant while he attended Palo Duro High School.
When Hood arrived at the Steelers practice facility on Monday for his introductory press conference, he didn't have the Coney with him, but it's likely that he could have as he did everything at the restaurant from flipping burgers to car hopping on roller skates. Yes, that's right, the 6-3, 300-pound defensive end used to roller skate up to cars with customer's orders. Fortunately for the Steelers, that is a thing of the past.
"I think I am too clumsy now," said Hood about hanging up the skates. "Back when I was 240 or 230 I think I could move around a whole lot better."
And the managers at the Amarillo, Texas Sonic were smart as it wasn't too often that any one would complain about no ketchup or cheese missing on their burger when Hood appeared.
"Not at all," said Hood about hearing people complaining or make comments. "At least I don't think so, as least not when I popped up in the window and they found out who it was. I had no problems and enjoyed it. I learned a lot while I was there."
It wasn't just what goes on the Extra Long Chili Cheese Coney that Hood learned. The lessons were far greater.
"It taught me how to work every day," said Hood. "Two and a half years of waking up, going to class, then going to practice and then turning around and going to work from five to 12, then just repeating that day-in and day-out. Sometimes I even worked after a Saturday game if I had to, just to provide for my family. It taught me how to work and the more you work the better chance at life you are going to get, and the better chance of someone giving you a shot."
That is just what the Steelers gave him on Saturday when they selected him with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. Playing in the National Football League is a far cry from Sonic, and Hood is the first to admit it's not going to happen overnight.
"It is going to take me a while," said Hood. "It is just another learning curve I will have like college all over again. Every day I am going to take it step by step and get more in the playbook, more than ever. I will be watching a whole lot more film and putting more work on the field and off the field.
"The game is going to be a whole lot faster. But I think it is a lot more mental than physical because I think the game is 90% mental and 10% physical. It is going to demand a lot from me mentally because coaches are going to be throwing playbooks at me every day, trying to pick up things faster and we don't have long weeks. We would play on Saturday and then not until the next Saturday but here we could play on Monday and then on Sunday. Things are going to be moving a whole lot faster than in college."
Hood doesn't mind the challenge. He is used to working hard for what he has gotten. He wasn't heavily recruited, not even in his home state of Texas.
"Maybe I should have done better and got five more sacks, more tackles and maybe my name would have been a whole lot better known," said Hood.
As luck would have it when a coach from Missouri was looking at a quarterback on an opposing team that Palo Duro High was facing, it was Hood that caught his eye. The quarterback didn't end up getting an offer. Hood did.
"I am glad that I went to Missouri and I am in the position that I am in now," said Hood.
Hard work came in to play again at Missouri. In the classroom he was named an Academic All-Big 12 selection, graduating in three years with a biology degree. On the field Hood was known as someone who doesn't take a play off and earned plenty of respect from his teammates, earning captain honors his senior season.
"I may not be one of the strongest, fastest, quickest or better defensive tackles out there but I can make a lot of plays from the backside if I hustle to the ball," said Hood.
Hood might not be asked to make those plays right away, with a strong defensive line ahead of him anchored by Casey Hampton at nose tackle and Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith at the ends. But after seeing the team's six Super Bowl trophies, he is willing to do whatever is asked to add to them.
"Hopefully next year I can do whatever I can, do my part and secure one for next year," said Hood. "But just having seen all of those trophies, it makes me feel good inside knowing I came to probably one of the greatest organizations in the National Football League."