Press Conferences

Rashard Mendenhall Press Conference

Art Rooney, II:  Good afternoon and welcome to the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.  We are here today to welcome Rashard Mendenhall to Pittsburgh and to the South Side.  I was given a long list of accomplishments that Rashard had in college.  I am not going to go through them all, but I have to say it is a resume that we like to see for a Pittsburgh Steelers running back.  Rashard was the Big Ten offensive player of the year in 2007 and set school records for rushing with 1,681 yards, 17 touchdowns and 1,999 all-purpose yards.  Rashard, I don't know why they didn't give you one more yard there, talk to that PR department.  He had eight 100-yard rushing games.  That is the kind of resume that you like to see for a Pittsburgh Steelers running back.  We are very pleased to have him join us this weekend and join the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Kevin and I would like to present you with your first Steelers jersey.  I know you are going to have a different number, but the number one draft pick always gets the number one jersey.

 

Rashard Mendenhall:  From the day I got picked, it was a great feeling.  I didn't think I'd wind up in Pittsburgh, but I felt great about it.  My family feels great about it and I've heard nothing but good things from the Rooney family and everybody knows about the Pittsburgh fans.  I am looking forward to playing in a city like this and under people like the Rooneys and the people of Pittsburgh.

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What does it feel like to make it to the highest level of football competition?

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It feels great.  That was always a goal of mine my whole life.  I always saw it coming.  I felt like I was going be there, I just didn't know how, why or when.  It was a wakeup call to see my name go across the screen and to be out there and put on a helmet and actually step on the field.  It is a great feeling.  Everything is starting to be real.

 

Were you relieved to get your first workout done?

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Yes, exactly.  I was just relieved.  I was kind of nervous coming in, but the running back room and Willie (Parker) have been nothing but professional since I've been here just trying to help me as much as they can.  The better I do, the better they are going to do, we are going to be as a team.

 

What has been Willie Parker been showing you?

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How to be a professional, he has been here for a few years.  He is showing me how to work, what to do, how to carry yourself as a professional and as a man.

 

Did you have that feeling that once you walked into the locker room, that you can do this?

 

Yes, I definitely felt like that.  You are thinking, and nerves and have butterflies, thinking how am I going to pan out, and to be out there and to be making cuts and catching ball and starting to feel comfortable.  I am not here for no reason.  This is what I do, to be out there and to be able to do it feels good.

 

How big of a step is this for you?

 

It is a great step.  To be the first draft pick, they obviously have a lot of confidence in me.  I have a lot of confidence in myself.  I am supposed to come in and produce and that is what I plan on doing.

  

Do you see this as a big step in terms of playbooks and how you see yourself?

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It is a big step.  When they asked me to take the step, they expect you to be able to do it and I expect myself to be able to it.   So it is definitely a big step, but it is not a step that I don't think I can't make. 

 

If everything goes well do you anticipate a lot of playing time this year?

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Yeah, but that's not up to me. It's the first day of practice so as camp goes on I will begin to find my role and whether that is playing a lot or playing a little bit more of special teams, it's just how things happen.

 

Were you shocked that you lasted to the 23rd pick?

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I think so. I didn't really expect to be the fourth running back selected. Everything happens for a reason and going through the process I never thought that I would end up in Pittsburgh. Now that things have happened I feel a lot better and I feel real good about the way they happened.

 

Have you ever run out of a two-back set?

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Yeah, in high school and in college. I would run out of two backs with my brother. In college we also did some two-backs. In a room like this you need weapons and if you have the weapons then it makes sense to use both of the running backs at the same time. I think that would be cool to be out there with Willie at the same time.

 

How would you feel about blocking for Willie?

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That is no problem, whatever they ask me to do, I am going to do. Like I said, the better he does the better I do and I am going to do whatever to make the team better.

 

Compare yourself to Willie?

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I feel like we both have good feet, good vision and good instincts. I am a little bigger guy and they call him "Fast Willie" so he is burner. I think that we have a lot of the same things but at the same time we each bring some different things to the table. As things pan out more and more I will start to feel some things out as far as my role on the team and in the NFL.

 

Have you seen Willie play?

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A little bit but not so much. I have seen him a lot on his ESPN highlights and in the Super Bowl so I know what kind of player he is. * *

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What are some areas that you need to work on?

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I feel like any running back coming from college to the NFL, the thing you do least is probably the passing game. The NFL today is real big on the passing game. Whether its going out for a pass or picking up the blitz, that is something that any running back needs to work at.

 

What are some of the things that you and your brother, Walter, have talked about recently? It seems like you might have passed him up?

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Our whole life we have been real close so during this whole thing he has been right there with me, supporting me. To tell you the truth, I honestly think that he can be doing the same thing next year. He still has one year and he hasn't gotten the same kinds of opportunities. I feel like with the same opportunity he might be in the same shoes as me. I talk to him and I let him know how I feel and see how he feels. We have just always been close. He is as happy for me as I am for myself.

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Did Illinois drop your brother's scholarship?

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Yeah, they did not want him to return. He would have been a fifth-year senior but he is graduating from Illinois and then he will be at Illinois State getting his one-year Master's. Like I said he is the same as me because I only had one year of really playing so I think that he can do the same.

 

Did him losing his scholarship upset you?

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Yeah it upset me. But to tell you the truth with how things were it didn't surprise me too much because it just wasn't in our favor over there.

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