Legends Spotlight: Yancey Thigpen
Yancey Thigpen grew up a fan of the Steelers, and even more a fan of wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. He was a the kid who would pretend to be Swann when playing football in the backyard, and that grew into representing Swann by wearing his No. 88 in high school.
When he came to the Steelers he had the honor of wearing Stallworth's No. 82, something he didn't take lightly.* *
"As a kid I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan," said Thigpen. "I was fortunate to know about the Steelers. In high school I wore No. 88. I was that Lynn Swann guy in the backyard. So I wore No. 88 in high school in honor of Lynn Swann and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I was fortunate to get to Pittsburgh and wear No. 82. When I put No. 82 on I knew what type of guy had made that famous. I felt like I had to represent well. Growing up, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, those were guys. My household was somewhat split, there were Cowboys fans and Steelers fans and I was a Steelers fan. To be able to play for Pittsburgh, and not only play for Pittsburgh but these guys they were my childhood heroes and for me to be able to become personal friends with these guys. I met them and became friends with Lynn, and John, I was fortunate to spend some time with him and his family. It was very special to me to be able to play for the Steelers and represent very well the guys that I grew up idolizing."
Thigpen hasn't worn that black and gold since 1997, but he still carries the pride of playing for the Steelers in his heart. The Steelers were one of three teams he played for, along with San Diego and Tennessee, but the Steelers, well that time meant something different.
* *"I look back at my career and I think if I had to do it all over again, I would do whatever it takes to put on the black and gold," said Thigpen. "I would rather play for Pittsburgh than any team in the league. I wouldn't want to play for anyone else in the league. When I left and went to Tennessee it was heartbreaking for me, but I was still a Steeler at heart. I will always be a Pittsburgh Steeler at heart."
Thigpen also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:
What your best memory from your Steelers playing career?"That's a hard one. The reason I say that, I have a lot of good ones, I don't have any bad ones. I guess the minute the clock hit zero in the AFC championship in the 1995 season and we were heading to the Super Bowl. We were in that same position the year before, and not being able to close the deal and make it to the Super Bowl. So I guess that would be one of my favorite moments with the Steelers."What was the Super Bowl XXX season like?"We started out that season rough. I think we started out, I don't know what the record was, 3-4, and for us to come together as a team and be able to put together the run that we put together. It built a lot of character. We became even closer as a team. I think everybody was in, everybody was locked in to what needed to be done and it made everybody closer. That whole season was a really exciting season for me. My teammates that experienced that, we talk about it often. That particular year, that was my first Pro Bowl so I guess at that point I figured that I had arrived. I felt like I was a big part of why we were so successful that season. I think that year was the biggest year, from a building stage, friendship wise, relationship wise, team wise, character wise, and I think that was a big year for me."* Can you talk about one of the catches that stood out to you and identified the type of receiver you were?*"We were playing the New England Patriots in New England in 1997. We were going on a run and we started to make our way into becoming the team that we were. This was one of the stepping stone games. We were down and New England had the ball. All they had to do was basically run the clock out. Kevin Henry was able to pick off a screen pass so we had to score a touchdown and a two point conversion. I think it was a couple of catches. The first one was fourth down and I ran a deep, comeback route. Ty Law actually jumped the route and Kordell Stewart was forced to throw the ball and bring me back further down the line. Everyone thought the ball was thrown out of bounds, and I was able to extend my body out of bounds and keep my feet in bounds to make that catch. I don't know how many times I run into fans and a lot bring up that particular catch, how amazing it was. So we go on to score a touchdown and we have to go for the two point conversion. Kordell hit me in the back of the end zone, it was a sliding catch, and I was sliding in the back of the end zone. I had a lot of catches that I remember, but those two, that was kind of a special year, and that particular game I think helped take us to a new level and we needed those plays to happen in order for us to get the win. So that to me, was two of my many favorite catches that I made in Pittsburgh."
Who had the biggest impact on your playing career?"I would say my dad. My dad and I had a really, really good relationship and the minute I started to smell myself, the minute I thought I was getting good at my task, he was the one person who always brought me back down to earth and said to stay focused. I think having conversations with him made me never get complacent where I was. I always was the guy who wanted to get better. No matter how big of a season or what type of receiver I had become, I always worked to try to get better and I think he was the reason for that."
As a kid that was a fan, what did it mean to you to play for the Steelers?"It meant a lot to me. Coming out of college, one thing you wanted to do as a guy that had always wanted to play football was to become a professional football player. At that point it didn't matter; I could have been playing for anyone. And so when I got drafted by San Diego I was obviously very happy to be a Charger, not thinking that my ultimate goal or my ultimate fantasy was to put on the Pittsburgh Steelers helmet as a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So my second year I ended up coming to Pittsburgh and working out for the Steelers and I had the opportunity to wear that helmet. At that point, I was still that guy just wanted to be a professional player, I was still that guy that wanted to be good enough to have a professional career. So it still hadn't sunk in that I was actually playing for the team I rooted for as a kid. My focus was to become a good player, a player that can last in this league for a while. So I had some work to do so my focus was more so on becoming a great player than playing for the Steelers.
"But one day I woke up and I had accomplished that and I started looking back, like man I'm playing for the Steelers. This was my childhood dream, was to play for the Steelers and in the process of making my dream come true, it was like living the dream and not realizing you're in it until the dream had already happened. So I wake up one day like man, I had an opportunity to meet Lynn earlier and I met John later in my career. To be able to break a couple of John Stallworth's records was amazing to me."