PHOTO GALLERY: Steelers play bingo with veterans
Cortez Allen is around tough guys all day, guys whose bodies take a beating on the football field, guys who play hurt, play through pain and give everything they have continuously.
But the toughness him and his Steelers teammates display, he said that doesn't come close to the toughness those in the military display.
"There is no comparison," said Allen. "What we do and what they do, any military force, there is no comparison. We go and play video games online and they do it for real. It's very real what they do. It's not a game to them.
"I have so much respect for what they do. How many of us would sacrifice our lives and time with family to lay it on the line for someone else, someone you don't know, for your country. That's a hat off to them for a job well done."
Allen understands those sacrifices, because they are the sacrifices his brother, United States Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Anthony, has been making for the past 14 years.
Anthony, 31, has been in the Marines since 1999. He has served deployments in Somalia and faced things there that make shutting down an opposing offense child's play.
"He has talked to me a number of times about digging holes, sleeping in them, and being in a country where things are limited," said Allen. "For them that's an everyday lifestyle and they carry that on for so long. We are over here reaping all of the benefits from it. A lot of times we take it for granted what they do and how it affects us."
He isn't the only one who is proud of his brother in the service. Center Fernando Velasco beams when he talks about his younger brother, 24-year old Melvin Brookins, who is in the Air Force stationed at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.
"It is so awesome to see what he is doing," said Velasco. "I went to his graduation and it brought tears to my eyes. It's amazing the sacrifice he puts himself through. A lot comes with it.
"Because we play football people think we are special or some tough, hero guys. What he does, and the other service men and women do, is awesome."
This Sunday when the Steelers take on the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field they will celebrate the NFL's Salute to Service, honoring the men and women of the Armed Forces as a part of Veterans Day observance. For those that serve now and have served, it's special.
"We do sacrifice a lot for the good of our country," said Brookins. "It's good to know people see what we are doing and recognize what we are doing and take the time out to recognize the veterans. That goes a long way."
The Steelers will recognize a veteran from various wars as a part of the Salute to Service, an opportunity for the team and fans to show their appreciation.
"They keep our country safe," said Allen. "A lot of the privileges and freedoms we have to do certain things are because of them. You look at the wars in different countries, and what they fight over, and how some are overrun by neighboring countries, you don't have that problem here because of our military. The sacrifices they make being away from their families, the things they do to keep us safe and look over the country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them."
Allen learned a lot about the discipline being in the military requires while attending The Citadel. But he never experienced the things his brother has in the Marines, and he couldn't be prouder of him.
"Growing up he had a big part in raising my other brother and I," said Allen. "Since I was little I always saw him as a superhero type. I never heard him complain about anything. There was never a time he wasn't able to do something. He is someone always willing to do what is required. Until this day, that is how he is in the military.
"I am extremely proud. He is one of my biggest motivators in life. I get so much support from him. He says he is so proud of me, but it's the other way around."