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Western Pennsylvania has always been home for Pro Football Hall of Famer Russ Grimm.
“I love western Pennsylvania,” Mr. Grimm said. “In places like Scottdale, there are family values. I would’ve loved to raise a family here.”
Many people know the name Russ Grimm for the field named after him that sits across from Southmoreland High School. The field’s title is full of local, state, and national history; the player behind the name left a mark on not only the school, but also on the National Football League as well.
Mr. Grimm started playing football at Southmoreland in the seventh grade. Through high school, he played as a linebacker and quarterback. He graduated with the class of 1977.
He continued playing football and received a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he started playing as linebacker. Mr. Grimm later switched to the offensive line, playing at center.
“I thought, ‘I can play at the next level,’ ” Mr. Grimm said. “NFL drafts weren’t televised back then. I was out fishing one day, and when I came home, my parents told me I had been drafted by the (Washington) Redskins.”
In 1981, Grimm was drafted as number 69 overall and the first pick in the third round. Mr. Grimm said the new coach for the team at the time, Joe Gibbs, created a “big changeover.”
Mr. Grimm and the Redskins’ efforts brought them to win their first Super Bowl in the team’s history in 1983. After 11 seasons and gaining another two Super Bowl wins, Mr. Grimm faced a string of injuries, forcing retirement.
“I told coach (Gibbs), ‘I can’t play to the level I’m used to playing,’” Mr. Grimm said. “So, I retired. Not too long after I got a call asking if I could coach the tight ends of the Redskins. I was coaching the same guys I played with a few months before.”
Mr. Grimm coached the Redskins from 1992-2000, switching from coaching the tight ends to the offensive line in 1997. He then coached the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line from 2001-2006, gaining one more Super Bowl ring.
“The Super Bowl is fun. One of the greatest thrills was when (the Steelers) beat Seattle (Seahawks) and seeing guys like Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis play, who had never been to the Super Bowl before,” Mr. Grimm said. “I was in charge of five guys, and I wanted them to play well, not for my glory, but for the guys I coached. I wanted to see them go to and win the Super Bowl, one game at a time.”
Most recently, Mr. Grimm coached the offensive line of the Tennessee Titans. He was brought out of retirement to coach the team starting in 2016, but now Mr. Grimm is planning to retire this year and settle in western Pennsylvania.
“I just bought a house in Westmoreland County, on a mountain,” Mr. Grimm told the Tam O’Shanter. “I’m going to hunt and fish, and let’s leave it at that. It’s good to be home.”
Mr. Grimm said he is thankful for the people from his alma mater, Southmoreland, for shaping his humble beginnings.
“At Southmoreland, the teachers care more about students getting As and Bs,” Mr. Grimm said. “Same with the coaches. Winning doesn’t matter. They care about you. They teach you life lessons.”
In his 2010 Hall of Fame speech, Mr. Grimm stated that he was “proud to say that (he is) from a small town in western Pennsylvania.”
“It’s a special part of the country…where the knowledge and the support for the game of football is unmatched,” Mr. Grimm said. “They fill the stadiums on Friday night, Saturday afternoons and Sundays. You created an excitement that growing up as a young man I wanted to be a part of. Thank you very much.”
Mr. Grimm added that he will always call Scottdale home.
“Thank you for all your support,” Mr. Grimm said during his HOF speech. “Southmoreland High School, my coach John Bacha, the administration, the teachers, thank you for creating a strong, healthy, positive environment for myself and the students of Westmoreland County.”
Mr. Grimm says that he plans to continue watching football on television throughout the season.
“I can ask myself, ‘what are they doing?’ They need to fix it,” Mr. Grimm said candidly. “I can make my own comments on the side now.”
He also does not see himself ever becoming a football commentator, as many other retired players such as Terry Bradshaw, former Steelers quarterback, and sports analyst have.
“I’ve been asked many, many times (to be a commentator),” Mr. Grimm said. “But no. These commentators think they have all the answers, but I believe anyone who plays the game is good.”
As for Southmoreland football players, Mr. Grimm’s biggest word of advice is to “watch what you post on social media.
“Don’t make a mistake on social media that screws you up later in life,” he said. “College recruiters look at that stuff. I would’ve gotten in big trouble if I had social media in my day. Have fun in high school. Realize that what you do in high school sets the standard for how you go on.”
Looking back on his career featuring four Super Bowl wins in six appearances, four Pro Bowls, and four different teams coached, Mr. Grimm stressed how “lucky” he has been.
“It was better to have been lucky than good,” Mr. Grimm said. “There were many guys who played better than me. But I was very lucky.”