Ok, yes, I realize that I am not nearly as sexy as Brett ‘Da Beard’ Keisel, especially once I used the BeardMe app to add a beard that I would be lucky to grow. Brett Keisel has long been one of my favorite Pittsburgh Steelers players and news that he was to retire weighed heavy on me. With Keisel’s departure, among other Steelers greats, it seems like the team is really turning a page on an era that had a lot of success.
News that Keisel had won the Bob Prince Award this week brought me out of my funk. Art ‘The Chief’ Rooney, Sr., was the type of man who constantly sought out those who were in need and found a way to better their lives. He saw that the Catholic Youth Association needed a financial boosts in the 1970s, and being the man that he was – stepped up and created an award dinner and auction in his name that would annually benefit the neighborhood and community through the CYA. Keisel was among the honorees at the dinner this year and was given the award, named after late Pittsburgh Pirates radio announcer Bob Prince, that honors “someone who embodies (Bob’s) enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports.”
I can think of few people who are more deserving of such an honor. Keisel has given his heart to Pittsburgh. At the dinner, Keisel said,
“Pittsburgh is special to me…I love being a part of the community here, love being part of what Pittsburgh is about. And everybody knows, Pittsburgh is about sports. I have always appreciated the support fans have given me, and I like to support all of the teams in the city. Pittsburgh will always be a part of me, and I will be a part of this great city.”
Keisel was the embodiment of Pittsburgh sports on the football field. There were many interviews given in which the bearded beast-man admitted that his love for the sport went only as far as his brotherhood with his teammates. In this day and age, it is hard to find a player that gave to his team so selflessly. As a leader and a friend, Keisel was as happy to mentor a younger player as he was to celebrate a victory in the locker room with the veterans. Keisel was a fierce competitor but showed true heart and courage. It was so much a part of who he was as a man that it carried with him off of the field.
Keisel and his family have made Pittsburgh their home despite his western roots. Involved in charitable events from his famed ‘Shear Da Beard’ to work with young cancer patients at Children’s Hospital (UPMC), the almost mythical man has shown that he can wrap his arms around more than an opposing quarterback. Following his latest shearing event, Keisel said,
“Pittsburgh is a special city and maybe the only city in the world that could do such a crazy event. People have really jumped on this thing. I constantly get emails and letters from fans that are doing similar events, whether they are cutting off their hair that they have grown for years or their beard. There are people out there who are aware and trying to do something good. That is what I am most proud of. Other people have grabbed onto the idea and are making a difference.”
Excuse me if I am a bit teary-eyed. Not seeing Keisel in a number 99 jersey this season is going to hurt, but at the same time it is one of those pains that constantly strokes the heartstrings. That Dan Rooney, Sr., gave Keisel the award and said he was “a leader of men on the field…and then off the field he was the same way,” just validates my belief that Keisel is one of the best of the Steelers in the last decade. I will be proudly wearing my Keisel jerseys (both the home and away) in 2015-2016 no matter what any Ravens, Browns or Bengals fan may cat-call to me. Yes, Brett Keisel retired from football, but he didn’t retire from life. To me, he was a hero and remains one.