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Martin's manager recalls his Super Bowl experience

February 05, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

candiceb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

You've cracked open this newspaper. Maybe you're eating your breakfast or sipping from a mug of hot coffee, waiting for the hours of pregame Super Bowl coverage to begin.

Wonder what the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks players are doing this morning?

Mike Collier knows.

He's been there.

A former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Collier was a backup on the 1975 championship team and helped to set up a go-ahead field goal in the Super Bowl.

"They're going through a lot of nervousness, a lot of excitement. Waiting for the game, wishing the game was earlier than it is," said Collier, 52, who lives in Hagerstown. "The waiting around is the hardest part of this game."

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For several hours Saturday afternoon, Collier posed for photographs and signed autographs at Martin's Food Market on Dual Highway, where he works as a relief manager.

Donations were accepted, autographed items were raffled, and cake and hot dogs were being sold, with all proceeds to benefit Bag Hunger.

"I want my picture taken with The Bus, but he's not here," Annie Woods proclaimed upon approaching Collier, referring to current Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis, whose nickname is "The Bus."

Woods said she's a Steelers fan.

"I came from New York after the second World War. Migrated to Pittsburgh and just migrated down here about four years ago," Woods said.

She said she remembers watching Collier play. He played in Super Bowl X, held 30 years ago in January 1976.

Saying she doesn't look good when photographed, Woods did not want to pose for a photograph with Collier. Instead, a Martin's employee took a Polaroid photograph of Collier standing alone, which he addressed to Woods and signed for her.

He included his playing number, No. 44.

In Super Bowl X, Collier returned a free kick that followed a safety. He returned the kick 25 yards, helping to set up a field goal that put the Steelers ahead of the Dallas Cowboys for the first time in that game.

The Steelers would go on to win, 21-17.

Collier said he still remembers the feeling he had when he walked onto the field in Miami, where more than 80,000 people watched the game, as well as countless others watching on television.

"I've never played in front of that many people in my life," said Collier, who played his college ball at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Growing up in Baltimore, Collier said he was a Colts fan.

"The Colts never even sent a scout up to see me," said Collier, who was drafted by the Steelers in the 14th round.

Although he was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 1977, his passion remains with the team that first gave him a chance to reach his dream of playing professional football.

"The Steelers are still in my heart," he said.

Collier said the only teammate he keeps in touch with is former wide receiver John Stallworth. He hasn't had the chance to meet any of the current players, but would offer them some advice.

"I'd tell them to give all you got for 60 minutes," he said. "You can rest after the game."

Martin's customer Tracy Snow of Martinsburg, W.Va., was asked by his son for a special favor.

His son, Jordan, 16, asked him to have Collier sign a box of chocolates that Jordan plans to give to his girlfriend, who is a Steelers fan.

Collier obliged, signing a personal message on the inside of the heart-shaped box's lid.

Snow said it was his son's idea.

"It's pretty unique, I'll give him that," Snow said.

Standing to the side of Collier, sometimes tossing a small football up and down, was the former Steelers' son.

"It's pretty cool," Jerome Collier, 16, said of having a former Steelers player for a father.

He doesn't necessarily plan to try to follow in his father's footsteps.

"I can play (football), but I don't play in high school. I'm a basketball player," Jerome said.

And he feels no special loyalty to the team that wears black and gold.

He's a Kansas City Chiefs fan.

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