Sunday, February 1, 2009

Latino offensive lineman will lead charge for Steelers

Colon Carries the Flag for New York City
By Naila-Jean Meyers Pittsburg Steelers

TAMPA, Fla. — There are three Hawaiians in the Super Bowl, including Arizona’s Aaron Francisco and Pittsburgh’s Chris Kemoeatu, who even went to the same high school. But there is only one player in Sunday’s game who was born and raised in New York City.

Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon grew up in the projects in the South Bronx, attending Cardinal Hayes High School.

“Obviously, growing up in a tough neighborhood, you might say it’s kind of survival of the fittest and that’s how the N.F.L. is,” Colon said earlier this week.

He attended Hofstra and was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 2006 N.F.L. draft. He said he was blessed to do what he does and he knows he has plenty of people pulling for him in the old neighborhood.

“I know people from back home are cheering me on,” he said. “Every time they see me they tell me they’re watching, so I’m proud and I’m glad they’re proud of me.”

Colon is also proud of his last name and to be representing the Latino community.

“My father is Puerto Rican; he’s a proud Hispanic who raised me to be proud of our last name and be proud of where we came from,” said Colon, who has started 36 consecutive games at right tackle. “Everywhere I go I try to represent somehow, some way not only for my family but for the Latino community.”

He said that football players in New York City needed more places to play. “There’s so many playgrounds, but not enough football fields and facilities for guys to perfect your craft,” Colon said.

Other players from the New York area in game are Steelers guard Darnell Stapleton, a second-year player out of Rutgers from Union, N.J.; and Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes, who grew up in Paterson, N.J.

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