Mentors made a difference for Steelers

Steelers' players have all had someone who helped them along the way. Whether it was someone who offered words of encouragement, or pushed them to take it to the next level, or challenged them to be their best, they haven't done it alone.

Nobody can have success without help or guidance. Steelers' players know that. All of them have had people along the way who have been their mentors, individuals who they look back on who made a difference in their lives.

"Growing up my dad was hard on me. He saw the potential in me," said safety Ryan Mundy of his father Gregory who he considers his mentor. "He saw what I could be. We spent long hours at the field, after practice, doing homework…whatever it was to get the best out of me.  It didn't stop there. He had a group of friends that had children also. We had this family-type thing. I had people looking after me that weren't family. It's important spending time with kids.

"That impacted me so much. When I think back of how I got here and accomplished my dream of playing in the NFL that is the number one reason. Somebody spent time with me, coached me and helped me out. That is my goal to reach back and help kids because somebody helped me."

Mundy is one of several players who recently shared the story of who his mentor is with the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MPSWPA) in celebration of January being National Mentoring Month.

"We are so grateful the Steelers organization is involved with players sharing their mentoring stories," said Kristan Allen, director of marketing and communications for MPSWPA.  "We like to show that everybody has a mentor. Regardless if you are a sixth-grade student in the Pittsburgh Public School district or a star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, somebody is helping you get where you are.

"Young kids look up to athletes. We think the Steelers do a great job embodying what it means to be a good sport, to succeed. They give so much back to the community. It's important for the kids to see they were just like them. They had to do homework; they had to practice hard to get to where they are."

Like with Mundy, the number one mentor in most players' lives has been one or both of their parents.

"First would be my dad," said defensive end Cameron Heyward.  "All throughout his life he was there for me, keeping a smile on my face. When there was a time I wasn't happy he was there to support me and bring me back up."

Heyward lost his father, Craig Heyward, in 2006. At that point it was his mother, Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell, who stepped into the role of the guiding force in his life.

"My father passed away when I was in high school," said Heyward in his video. "I learned a lot from her. She took over the responsibility of being the number one person in my life, helping me go through the college process. She was always there for me. She helped my two other brothers too. She has always been there for me and I am very thankful to have her in my life."
The Mentoring Partnership serves 140 youth mentoring programs in the region, including working with United Way agencies. They strive to connect young people with adults who can be the guiding light they need.

"A mentor is someone who is willing to give that little bit of extra support to someone who needs it," said Allen. "It can be a friend, a neighbor, a teacher or coach. It's anyone who is willing to spend a little extra time with someone and help them recognize their potential and reach their goals."

To watch the all of the Steelers mentor videos, click on Steelers Mentors.

To become a mentor or learn more, click on Mentoring Partnership.

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