'Nothing compares to playing for the Steelers'

Leading up to the NFL Draft, current and former Steelers' players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, former receiver Mike Wallace shared his story.

Mike Wallace
Third Round

"The combine is definitely different. It's surreal when you go there. It's something I always dreamt about doing. I knew it wasn't going to be fun because it's nerve wracking. At the same time, it's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

"I didn't talk to the Steelers at the combine. The only time I talked to anyone from the Steelers was at my pro day, (former offensive coordinator) Coach Randy (Fichtner) came to my pro day, he led my drills. We talked about what I liked to do, personal questions about life, things like that. He led the drills so he knew what I could do on the field. But we didn't talk football, just personal. That was the first and only time I talked to them. When he came there that day, we had three first round picks on my time, so I assumed they were there to see those guys. I never thought it would lead into what it did and on draft day they would call me. I went to the Senior Bowl, and it was conversation like that, where they are just trying to fish around and learn about you.

"Going into the combine, I was projected to be maybe a sixth-round pick. I had a really good combine and that pushed me up the draft boards. That felt really good. I knew I was a good player, but I was pretty raw. I felt like I was the best receiver in the draft. I was the 11th one taken, but I felt like I was the best. The combine gave me the chance to show that I was the best.

"There weren't a lot of teams going crazy over me at the time. I thought many a team like the Bears, Titans or Jets were going to take me. The Steelers never crossed my mind. They were the best team in the world, coming off the Super Bowl win.

"On draft day I was at my mom's house. The first day of the draft, they did the first two rounds on the first day and everyone else went on the second day then. I went through the first day and I didn't get picked. I had a party that day. It was tough. It was heartbreaking. I knew I wasn't going in the first round, but when you are in that position all you do is hope. It was tough because I had people at my house, and you wanted to see them go crazy. I always watched the draft and always had that dream of seeing myself on television and everyone going crazy.

"I woke up the next morning and I was kind of over the draft. I was like I didn't get picked, I was upset, depressed. I didn't go in the first round. I wasn't projected to, but you are still hoping. In the second round I felt like I was able to sneak in there. Once I didn't go there, I was upset. That morning I woke up around nine or ten o'clock, they started the draft early. I was at the house, one of my friends was there, and the best call ever came through and it was Coach (Mike) Tomlin.

"When I got drafted, it was when the iPhones were just coming out and I had one. I saw the number, but it was before the phone told you where the call was coming from. I saw '412,' but I didn't know where that was. When I answered and they said Pittsburgh, I was like dang. That was my brother and uncles favorite team growing up. They loved the Steelers to death. When I told them, we just lost it. I will never forget that moment.

"I talked to Coach Tomlin and was like he is the coolest coach ever. He was a young, black head coach just fresh off the Super Bowl. I never talked to him before. I didn't think the Super Bowl champions were going to call. It was surreal to know your hard work paid off and you were getting to live out your childhood dream. I dreamt of that for as long as I can remember. I prayed to God every night when I prayed to help me get to the NFL. And then for it to be the Steelers, the greatest franchise in football ever. It was a true blessing.

"After I talked to Coach Tomlin, I don't remember who I talked to. I didn't know much about the Steelers. I am from New Orleans, I didn't know about the city or really how great the franchise was. I didn't know at that time it would be the best call of my life, the best franchise I could go to at the time. It was just happening, and I was living in the moment.

"Once I hung up the phone, I was crying, I was excited, I was actually in, the wait was over. I had been watching television and a minute after you get the call your name goes across the screen. My mom came out screaming.

"Keenan (Lewis), one of my best friends, he got drafted about a half hour after me. I got off the phone, I called my cousin, and he was like Keenan is on the phone with the Steelers now. It couldn't be real. It didn't feel like a real moment. One of my best friends to go to the same team in the same round, it doesn't happen. It was amazing. It was the best feeling in my life.

"Keenan and I didn't even talk on the phone. By the time I got off the phone excited, Keenan is coming down the street, honking his horn the whole way down the street, making all kinds of noise coming to my mom's house. That was the greatest moment ever. Me and my best friend going to the same team in the same round, it was the best moment I ever had.

"Once we got to Pittsburgh it was like a movie. I saw Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu. It was crazy. Santonio Holmes, James Harrison. It was like being around the Lakers. I didn't grow up seeing or being around NFL players. My first time ever being around them, I was around the biggest superstars in the game. I had to keep it together. I was on their team and I couldn't be like a fan. At the same time I was like, man, I am a kid coming from college and this is amazing being on the team with the biggest names in the game and the greatest franchise.

"It meant everything to play for the Steelers. I got to play for the pinnacle of NFL teams. Coach Tomlin was the best coach I ever had at any level. The most real coach, genuine coach. That is something I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. That organization, the Rooney family. Everything. Once you go and play for other teams, there is nothing like playing for the Steelers. I can promise you that. People won't want to hear this, I loved playing in Baltimore. It was great. But nothing compares to playing for the Steelers. Not even close. The way they run the program, the way Coach and Kevin Colbert work together. The family environment, the love, the genuine feeling, you can't get that everywhere. I played for the best organization in sports and that is something I will carry with me forever in life."