Mike Wallace said it all. And he did it in Spanish.
"Los fans mexicanos, increíbles"
It indeed was incredible, the reception that the Steelers received during a one-day football camp in Mexico City last weekend that was attended by more than 500 kids who came to learn some of the basics of the sport from Wallace, Ziggy Hood, Keenan Lewis and Daniel Sepulveda.
The Steelers are incredibly popular throughout Mexico, and the first-ever such clinic conducted by an NFL team in that country prompted a visit from Margarita Zavala, the wife of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
"I had a chance to speak briefly to the First Lady," said Hood. "Whenever you can meet someone of that stature, it was an incredible experience. And what she did was she traveled all the way from South Africa, where she had been watching Mexico in the World Cup – I don't know – maybe 15, 16 hours in the air and then an hour's drive from the airport to where we were having the clinic. That's just amazing. She did all of that to visit with us for maybe 10 minutes. That was an honor all by itself."
The Steelers players may have been honored with the treatment they received, but the crowd was thrilled by an appearance of a group of players from their favorite American football team. In addition to the 500 kids who took part in the actual clinic, Hood estimated there were another 1,000-plus people there who came to watch, take pictures and wait for a chance to interact with the Steelers.
"It seemed like half of the city was there," said Hood. "There were a bunch of kids who were all eager to learn different things about football, and then they had all of their parents there cheering them on. It was like a big festival."
It was a big festival that also commanded a lot of media attention. The Sunday edition of the Record carried three stories written by Ulises Harada to go along with a dozen color photographs that made up a two-page spread.
Wrote Harada, "Mike Wallace, receptor de los Acereros de Pittsburgh, pasó de ser un novato compitiendo por un lugar como tercer receptor a convertirse en titular del equipo en tan sólo una temporada. En su visita a la Ciudad de México, Wallace se mostró sorprendido por la lealtad de la afición mexicana hacia su equipo.
'Estoy sorprendido, los fans son increíbles y, la verdad, signifi ca mucho para mí estar aquí', comentó en entrevista el número 17 de los Acereros, quien en su año de novato consiguió 756 yardas y seis anotaciones.
"El receptor terminó en los mejores de su posición entre los jugadores de primer año en la Liga, a pesar de ser seleccionado hasta la tercera ronda del Draft 2009. Para muchos su éxito fue una grata sorpresa, pero para él no.
'Yo sé lo que puedo hacer. Muchas personas se sorprendieron del éxito que tuve en mi temporada de novato, pero no yo. Todo eso ya quedó en el pasado. Tenemos nuevos objetivos', agregó Wallace.
While the previous four paragraphs, from a newspaper in Mexico, might represent something of a comprehension problem for Steelers fans in the United States, Hood said he didn't have too much trouble communicating to the kids participating in the clinic.
"I thought it was going to be some type of a barrier in trying to talk to the kids, but it seemed as though everybody understood what I was saying," said Hood. "If not, they did their best to try to mimic the person in front of them in line and do what they just saw him do, in terms of the drill. I didn't have too much problem with the language, because most of the kids knew English pretty well."
They also knew a good bit about the sport they had come to be taught.
"It was different than some of the other clinics I've done, because we were in a different country, a country where their primary sport is soccer," said Hood. "But they also knew some things about football, because they had a high school football team. It was amazing to me how much they knew about American football, and then how much fun they were having. A bunch of them came wearing football gloves and cleats."
And above all, those who attended, whether participating or not, knew their Steelers.
"Right now, I don't have any type of reputation around the league, because I haven't done anything, but for them to know who I am, what school I came from, all that was big to me," said Hood. "I really appreciated that."