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Former Steeler signs autographs

January 31, 2009|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Mike Collier have two things in common -- both have Super Bowl rings and each has worked in a supermarket.

Today, however, Collier's heart is with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the storied franchise attempts to win a record sixth Super Bowl against the Cardinals.

Collier was a rookie running back when the Steelers won their second title, 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.

Now a relief manager at Martin's on Dual Highway, he spent Saturday at the store surrounded by memorabilia, signing autographs and chatting with friends.

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Some of those friends only knew Collier played football after getting to know him.

"I came in one night with a bunch of Steelers gear on," said Joe Strickler, who has known Collier for about six years. Collier asked Strickler if he was a Pittsburgh fan and mentioned that he used to play "out that way."

"When I first met him here, his name rang a bell," said Skip Bigi, a Pittsburgh native. "We've gotten to be good friends since I came here. We talk every week."

"Mike's our buddy, but we cheer for the (Baltimore) Ravens," said co-worker Krista Bloom, whose daughter, Abbey, was wearing a Ravens jersey.

Football is a game of numbers and number 44 remembers a few -- a 94-yard kickoff return for a game-winning touchdown against Green Bay in 1975; a 29-yard punt return to set up a score against Dallas; and a 99-yard kickoff return against the Chambersburg Trojans when he was in high school.

"We played Chambersburg every year for three years when I was in high school," said Collier, who went to school in Baltimore.

Drafted in the 14th round in 1974 out of Morgan State University, Collier also remembers his rookie salary of $16,000. In several seasons in the league, the last few with the Buffalo Bills, his highest salary was $75,000, he said.

"I sure wish I was playing now," he said, thinking of the salaries players now receive.

However, the Super Bowl was about more than yards gained, passes caught and touchdowns scored, Collier said.

"To me it was the camaraderie we had going into the Super Bowl," Collier said. "You play with a team all year, you get to know the players. They're like brothers to you."

Emotion won Super Bowl X, he said. In the third quarter the Steelers were behind and kicker Roy Gerela missed a 33-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game. Cowboy linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson mocked Gerela and Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert pushed Henderson to the turf.

The riled-up Steelers "just shut the door on them from that point," he said.

Collier has not seen Lambert since his Buffalo days, when the Hall of Fame linebacker was on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He said he might see him when Lambert and current Steeler linebacker James Harrison make a personal appearance at Valley Mall in April.

"He was a wild guy," Collier said.

Collier brought with him his tattered black-and-gold jersey, photos he autographed for donations to multiple sclerosis, his bubble gum card and a game ball he received for his touchdown against Green Bay. He wore a wedding ring, but no Super Bowl ring.

"I keep that in a safe deposit box," he said.

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