Legends Series: Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala
Whenever Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala carried the ball, you knew it. Because the minute he touched it, Steelers' fans would immediately shower him with love with their cheer of "Fuuuuuuu."
"The fans were unbelievable," said Fuamatu-Ma'afala. "I remember my rookie year pulling up to Three Rivers Stadium on game day. Everybody had nice cars. I was a sixth round draft pick and I was trying to be smart. I had a beat up 1990 Altima with a missing hubcap. I was driving up to Three Rivers Stadium and I was saying to myself, this is kind of embarrassing. And they started to do the 'Fuuuuuuu' chant and I held my head a little higher.
"I realized the fans weren't about that glamorous stuff, they were about the hard working guys who brought their lunch pail to the game. I definitely adopted the city, their mentality and tried to do that every time I took the field."
Fuamatu-Ma'afala still lives in his native Hawaii, but his heart will always be in Pittsburgh. It was a city that adopted him as one of their own, loving the work ethic he had and his overall approach to the game.
"I knew my role," said Fuamatu-Ma'afala. "We had Jerome Bettis starting. I knew my role would be to make something happen on special teams. Even if I had to block. I would do whatever it took. I adopted the mentality of the fans and the city, working hard trying to make a living."
Fuamatu-Ma'afala also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:
What did it mean to you to play for Steelers?"Just being drafted by them in 1998, knowing the opportunity. I knew I was going to give it my all. I didn't get drafted high, but I knew I would give it all I've got, especially going to an organization like the Steelers. They were already Super Bowl champs in the 1970s. It was big for me, especially in Hawaii where there are a lot of Steelers fans. It meant a lot to me."
Was it special to come to a place where there is such support?
"There is a lot of pressure. You have to play for the guys who came before you, guys who did it in the stadium. When you stepped on the field, at Three Rivers Stadium, and you saw all of the jerseys in there, you knew you had to live up to that legacy."
What was your best on-field memory from your career?
"That would have to be the Cleveland game, a playoff game in 2002. Time was running down and they called a package play. Tommy Maddox made the call. I kept yelling the run play. I got to score the game winning touchdown. That was my favorite moment as a Steeler."
Who had the biggest impact on career?
"Jerome Bettis. Looking up to that guy. When I was in high school he was already at Notre Dame. When I got here I shared with him some of the stories, the runs he did in college. He was like this guy knew his details. Learning from him, the ins and outs, what to watch for, the game in general. Jerome Bettis was that guy."
What was it like when you first got here with Jerome, was it intimidating, was he welcoming?
"It was so welcoming. A guy like that, I am trying to compete for his spot. I did everything I could to try and dethrone 'The Bus.' But that guy was awesome. All of the leaders. They were all about team, one goal. I didn't have that when I left it. It's totally different in other organizations. It's not the Pittsburgh way. We miss The Burgh."
What is it about Steelers that made you miss it?"The Rooneys make you feel special. They knew my wife's name, they knew my kids name. They take time to know your family, to know you. That trickles down to the coaches. When the players see that, things like the Christmas party all of the families together, all of that keeps the team together."
What was the atmosphere like among the team, in the locker room?
"It was one team. In training camp we tried to beat each other up, but at the end of the day that was our brother. We are going to try to make each other better and give them everything you can handle."
Everyone has one. What was your welcome to the NFL moment?
"It was at Three Rivers Stadium my rookie year. It wasn't even in a game. I went in to a small route over the middle. Earl Holmes was the middle linebacker at the time. It was in minicamp. I run up the middle and try to make a move and he gives me a two handed shot and I go down. That was a welcome to the NFL moment then. It came from friendly fire. Thank you, Earl."
What was it like facing that Steelers' defense in practice every day?
"Once you practice here and had that Steelers experience as far as practice, it's different. Everybody that I talk to in other places, the tempo was slower. They do things different."
Did you like playing for Coach Cowher?
"He had the best speeches. His intensity. The guy cared for you. He would expose you if you weren't doing your job. He was a guy I respected because he would hold you accountable. He was a special teams guy too. Right up my alley. He made sure I was doing my job."