On the Sidelines with Willie Colon
Steelers.com will bring you a regular feature throughout the season titled On the Sidelines where Teresa Varley will sit down with players and help you get to know them away from the game.
Offensive tackle Willie Colon made a commitment to the Lupus Foundation to help fight the disease which his mother, Jean Davis, battles on a daily basis.
"She is a trooper. She deals with a lot," said Colin. "Some days I call and she can barely speak because she is fatigued. Some days she is up and at it, running around doing things. If affects her. At times when I get fatigued or mentally drained, I imagine what she goes through and that gives me energy. If my mother can do this on a day in, day out basis, I have to be able to focus in and get it done. She is my motivation from that aspect."
Colon is serving as the honorary chair for the Lupus Loop for the second straight year, a walk which will take place on Pittsburgh's North Shore, near Heinz Field, on Saturday, Oct. 18. The walk raises funds to help enable leading researchers to find the cause and cure for lupus, create programs to support lupus patients, help to educate healthcare professionals on all aspects of lupus and provide current information on lupus to the general public.
For him, it's finally a chance to do something that can really make a difference for his mom and others who suffer from the disease. And that means a lot to his mom.
"She is very happy. She tells me every day she is proud," said Colon. "I did this not just for her. She goes to dialysis and there are little girls, teenage girls affected by it. People don't talk about it and understand it. It is one of the biggest things that affect minority women.
"She sees I understand what she is going through and this is why I am doing it. There is a bigger picture to it. I want people to know it's a true disease. I want to fight for it."
Colon wants to win the battle because he knows that it's his mom that kept him on the right path when he was a kid and helped him get where he is today.
Colon talks about his start in sports and football and different topics in this installment of On the Sidelines.
When did you start to play organized sports? *I was six or seven and started playing baseball. I was pretty much a basketball kid growing up in New York in the inner city. When I got to high school my freshman year was my first time playing organized football. I played basketball, baseball and football in high school.
*Did you play football in the neighborhood as a kid?
I did it all of the time. We played in the park and in the street. You know, make a left and hook around the car. All of that stuff. Just neighborhood stuff, anything any normal kid would do in the inner city playing football.
You grew up in the Bronx. Were you a Giants or a Jets fan?
I was a big Giants fan. I was a big Lawrence Taylor fan. I loved him. I loved the whole defense but I was more of a Lawrence Taylor fan than anything.
Did you ever think NFL would be a possibility?
I always wanted to play football growing up but there were not any organized leagues where I grew up. I wound up playing basketball. The high school I went to was always known for having a good football team and it was close to the house. Once I started I had a passion and love for it. I loved the camaraderie. I loved waking up early Saturday mornings and getting ready for the games. It just kind of blossomed.
When did playing in the NFL start to become a reality for you?
Not until my last year of college. Even after that I didn't believe it until my coach pulled me aside. He's kind of hard on his guys. He doesn't believe in selling the whole NFL dream to his players. For him to pull me aside and talk to me about it, that's when I took it seriously.
What kind of advice would you give to kids who dream about playing in the NFL?
You have to take care of academics first. That's something I wish I would have done a lot more. I wish I would have been more serious in the books. If you love it and believe in it just be dedicated and focused. Don't let anything get in your way. And while you're out there sell out and have fun.
Did playing sports keep you off the streets?
That was the one thing my mother went the extra mile on. She understood the environment we grew up in. So many kids we played with, my brother and I made a right and they went left. They were hanging out late, getting in some neighborhood trouble. My mother knew she had to do something to keep us off the streets. That's when we got into sports and we met coaches who cared about us. We just followed along from there.
You are a Yankees fan. When did the love for that team start?
It all started when I was little. I loved Don Mattingly. I loved the boys, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and those guys. I remember they used to have bat day back in the Bronx. That was a big thing for me. When you are able to get a bat you and take it back to your neighborhood and play all day with the bat that was big. They also had glove day. They had things for the community that we were able to get. That was fun and I have always supported the whole team. I used to go to the game and I was way up in the upper deck. We couldn't afford the good seats. I was a bleacher creature.
Yankee Stadium closed this season. What was your favorite memory from Yankee Stadium?
In 1996 they won the World Series and I was around eighth grade. The whole Bronx was in an uproar. When they actually won the game everybody stuck pots and pans out their windows and started banging them. There was this weird sound going on throughout the neighborhood. That was awesome. Watching that game and being excited was one of my favorite experiences.
Are you a fan of the old Yankee Stadium or the new one?
I am always going to be a fan of the old stadium because of the history. I think the key with the new stadium is they have to make it affordable for people to go. The tickets are so high and people in the Bronx love the Yankees, but they can't afford it and just have to watch it on television. They have to make sure they give back to the community. That is important. The park where they built the new stadium was important to the community. Create something where the kids can go and have fun and play.