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Cold doesn't hold fans back from former Steeler great

February 09, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Most of the children for whom he was signing footballs before the doors opened Thursday might not have known his name, but a few hundred members of the "Steeler Nation" braved the cold waiting in line at Circuit City to get the autograph of NFL Hall of Famer Jack Ham.

"My last year was 1982 ... They're probably familiar with Hines Ward and (Ben) Roethlisberger," Ham said of the children from the Chambersburg Boys & Girls Club who got a head start on getting the autographed pigskins. "A lot of these kids don't know me."

That was definitely not the case for many of the fans in the long line outside the store, many dressed in black and gold, hunting Ham's autograph or bargains on consumer electronics at the store's grand opening at Chambersburg Crossing, a new retail area on the north end of the borough.

"It's not exactly Florida out there ... It's great to see all these people," said Ham, who won four Super Bowls during his 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. An All-American at Penn State, Ham noted that Chambersburg is an area that would have a lot of both Steelers and Nittany Lions fans.

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The store sold footballs to be autographed by Ham for $25 with proceeds to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. Each of the 21 members of the club received their own signed ball courtesy of the store, said Jack Jones, a member of the club's board of directors.

Along with the balls they purchased, autograph seekers brought Steelers towels, football helmets, trading cards and other items for Ham to sign.

Lynn West and Shawn McGuire were first in line. They said they drove in from New Jersey to get Ham's signature, waiting about three hours before the doors opened at 6 p.m. Leslie Kasse of Chambersburg said she came for both the football signing and a $50 gift card given to some of the first customers.

The money raised by the autograph session will help fund a technology program for the Boys & Girls Club, said Program Director Ashley Keeney. The Chambersburg Area School District donated 15 computers, but the club will have to update the software and perhaps buy a few more, she said.

The children who complete the computer course, Keeney said, will get to keep the computers.

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