Chat wrap: Garrett Webster talks about his father
What hidden tolls does life as professional football player take? What can the NFL, its teams and even fans do to ensure Webster's story isn't repeated? What was Webster like at the end, slipping away but trying valiantly to never lose the pride that made him such a great player?
Garrett Webster, Mike's son, visited The Show on Friday afternoon, as part of ESPN.com's series on the causes and consequences of Webster's story. If you're interested in helping the Webster family, or just sharing a story about Mike, email Garrett at: BigWeb52@yahoo.com
The ShowGirl (3:29 PM)
Welcome to The Show! We have a very special guest this afternoon. Garrett Webster, son of Mike Webster -- the Hall of Fame center for the Super-Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers -- is here to take your questions.
Garrett Webster (3:32 PM)
Hey everybody, I look forward to talking to you today, thanks for logging on, I'll try to answer any questions you may have as best as I can. Here we go.
Alan (Addison, IL)
What are your lasting memories of your Dad? When somebody says the word, "Dad" to you, what to you think of?
Garrett Webster (3:35 PM)
Alan, when I think of my father, I remember the way we would interact -- by that I mean that he wasn't just my dad, he was my best friend. I know he was a great football player, but I don' think of that, really. He was my dad, he was my best friend. I think that one of REggie White's children said, "I don't think of my father as Reggie White, I think of him as my dad." Of course there are bad memories, every child will have those. But I choose to remember the times we played catch in the back yard, or watched Star Wars, or when we talked about the Yankees together. Those are the memories that last.
Hey Garrett, longtime fan of your dads. He really represented something special in not only a football player or an athlete but as a human being. One quick question.. did you play or are you playing college ball anywhere?
Garrett Webster (3:37 PM)
Well Adam, first thank you for the wonderful comments. They mean a lot to me and my family. I am not currently playing football. I played in high school, and I was going to play at the University of Pittsburgh but I didn't have the love of the game that is needed to play the sport at that level.
Garrett Webster (3:38 PM)
That is not because of the injuries that my dad had -- those did not have an effect on my decision -- but rather, it was just because I didn't love the game enough.
jillian s (new york)
are there things that you want to change in the leauge to help players like your dad, in the future- what do you think should or could have been done differently?
Garrett Webster (3:41 PM)
I think that the problems that my dad had are problems that players in the past had and players now and in the future will have. The best way to deal with these problems is head on. A great idea would be to open up a health care facility for players once they reach a certain amount of years in the league. Healthcare and medication is certainly one of the things that were so costly for my father. I also believe that there should be an educational program, set up for not just the players, but their families as well so they know how to recognize and deal with the problems. The players can't always deal with them themselves. One of my dad's frustrations was that nobody around him knew how to deal with his problems.
Garrett, first - best to you and your family in the future. Did the success of this years team bring back any special memories or times when your Dad would reflect on the championship teams he was a part of?
Garrett Webster (3:43 PM)
Well Brian, it was definitely nice to see the Steelers doing well again. It did remind me of times when we would go see my dad play and watch him in the locker room b/c we would get to go down there after games. Watching them play definitely reminded me of Pitts teams past. The only difference is the games I went to were in the mid-80s when the Steelers weren't at their best, so, it's hard for me to remember the Steelers at their peak because I was not alive when those glory days were happening ... but I'm sure my dad would have been proud of the type of football this year's team played.
Chris B, Atco, NJ
I met your father at a card show in July 2003 in Virginia. Of all the Steelers players I met over the years at these shows, he was the best. I asked if I could get a picture. He said yes, and waved for me to come around the table. He Stood up and i got next to him and my wife took a picture. Usually the players just extend their hand for shake and a picture is taken as I would lean over the table. That picture means a lot to me, knowing he was in pain and still it meant enough for him to get up and pose with a fan.
Garrett Webster (3:47 PM)
Well, Chris, thank you very much for your comment ... I have heard this same story from many fans around the world. My dad always apreciated and loved his fans. Even though there were times when one of you would come up and ask him and he would say he wasn't Mike Webster, it wasn't b/c he didn't appreciate your love and admiration. My father and our family appreciate everything you fans and former teammates have done for us. Everyone who met my father, my father considered a friend.
Garret - I used to watch your dad every summer at Latrobe during training camp when I was growing up. He was such a classy man who was one of the smartest Steelers when it came time to give a quote. Why didn't he want any help from anyone when he was going through his problems?
Garrett Webster (3:51 PM)
Tom, I think that my father had a lot of pride. Sometimes, pride can be a strength ... other times, pride can be a weakness. He wanted to get himself out of his predicament himself. In retrospect, that wasn't a very smart thing to do. We all need help from the people around us. But, my dad didn't want to be a burden on people whom he loved and respected so much. He didn't want to be perceived as weak, to people who saw him as the strongest man on an incredible football team. I'm sure he wanted help, but he just didn't know how to ask for it. That's just as much his fault as it is anybody else's.
Mark (Londonderry, NH)
Hi Garrett, Did your father ever discuss with you his toughest opponents that he faced during his playing days? Also, have you had the opportunity to speak to players that went up against your dad and gotten their feedback on playing against him. Thank you.
Garrett Webster (3:53 PM)
Well Mark, my dad would tell me many times of the toughest opponents he would face. He always had great amounts of respect for them. Howie Long and Harry Carson come to mind. And of course, always those D-lines on the Cowboys and Raiders. There were many others, too. Yes, I have heard from some players that my dad played against, and all of them comment on what a wonderful player my dad was and how much respect they had for them. I hope they know how much that would mean to my father and how much that means to his family.
I read one of your postings that said your dad wasn't fond of Jack Lambert. Why was that?
Garrett Webster (3:58 PM)
Well Scott, I can see how sometimes those comments would be misinterpreted, when I say my dad hated Jack Lambert, it's more of an inside joke b/c my dad and Lambert would always go at each other in drills. I'm sure many fans who would go to Steelers training camps during those hot summers of the 70s and 80s would enjoy watching Webster and Lambert go at it in Oklahoma drills. My father had the greatest amount of respect for Jack Lambert ... and Jack Lambert made Mike Webster better. The only think Mike Webster hated about Lambert was how hard he would make my dad work ... but that was also my father's greatest point of admiration for Mr. Lambert. I'm sure, if you asked Mr. Lambert, I'm sure he would say the same things about my father. But, my father did NOT hate Jack Lambert. My father loved and respected Jack, but when it came time to go at each other in practice, I'm sure that the toothless Jack Lambert hated the balding midget Mike Webster and vice versa. That said, after the drills were all done, I'm sure there were no two players who respected each other more. My father always had a deep caring for Mr. Lambert, as does our whole family.
Eric (Baltimore, MD)
I can't help but wonder how many guys are out there in the same situation, but didn't play on 4 Super Bowl teams and get the attention that comes with that? How many people have fallen through the cracks with nobody taking any notice. Its a sad story about a man that gave so much and asked for next to nothing.
Garrett Webster (4:01 PM)
Eric, I would say that is a great point and that is one of the main things my father was concerned about with this lawsuit. When he was alive and pursuing this, there were times when I did not understand why he was doing it b/c it was taking away time that we could have spent together as a family. BUt, one day he sat me down and told me that this isn't just about us or Mike Webster. It is about making sure that there are no more Mike Websters. That in the future, players, and also regular people, are taken care of and are helped the way they should be. IN the end, whether we win or lose this lawsuit, if we see changes in how players and people -- past and present -- are taken care of, I know my father would be proud. I think the scariest thing is that we don't know how many people in our society there are out there struggling with the same exact problems that my dad had.
Mike (Austin, TX)
Garrett, one of my fondest memories of your Dad was him sprinting from the huddle to the line of scrimage every play. His love for the game just radiated off him. I was wondering what you thought of Bradshaw's intro of your dad at the Hall of Fame. I thought it was classic. A little over the top but basically right on the money. If God ever made a man specifically to be the most dominant center to ever play the game, it was your dad.
Garrett Webster (4:04 PM)
I think that is very truthful, our family really enjoyed Terry's rambling intro. The only thing my father had to question him about was why did he have to get so low for that final snap? My father loved Terry Bradshaw perhaps more than any other teammate. He would do his best to help Terry while they were playing together. I think the only thing that God could have done better in making a more dominant center was to give him a stronger skull that would withstand the years of abuse.
Robert Slane (Pittsburgh, PA - via LA)
Garrett: Your father's Super Bowl rings belong nowhere but in your family's possession. Could you please announce to us, how people can purchase the rings in order to donate them back to you and your brother and sisters? Will your family set up a fund specifically designed for these treasures to find their proper owners (you!)?
Garrett Webster (4:08 PM)
Thank you very much for the offer, Robert. I am amazed by how many people have offered their services. The person who has the Super Bowl rings is a man we love and trust with our lives. He is not withholding the rings for any selfish reason, he was a great man who lent money to my dad when my father needed money and the rings were used as colateral. It's important to me and my family to get those rings back ourselves b/c it is our responsibility. If there are people out there who would like to help us out financially, that would be wonderful, and we would greatly appreciate it. If you are interested in helping us, you can email me at BigWeb52@yahoo.com
Garrett Webster (4:10 PM)
Any donations would be greatly appreciated, but your kind words and stories of my father mean just as much, if not more, than any amount of money. And that goes to everybody who has made an offer or shared a story, and I think them from the bottom of my family's heart.
JC Columbus, OH
Hi Garrett I just wanted to say hi and that i grew up in Overland Park, ks and Leawood, ks and hung with your sister Brooke at Leawood Middle School. And met your father when he played for the Chiefs and talked to him alot cause Bobby Saunders was close friend of mine and Coach Saunders was there as one of your dad's Coaches. I went on to play at Ohio State University and had severe problems with my manic depression and bouts with anti depressants and kinda now how your dad fealt in that respect. And now iam NFLPA certified agent and i want to help players not fall threw the cracks. And help manage there money and there life and make sure they dont lose everything and there family. i represent a player in this yrs super bowl that i work with the team doctors on his mental illness and he will make it cause we care about the player one and off the field. I hope all is well with u and your family and tell Brooke hi. And your Dad was great guy and warrior and people that played the game at high level remember people like him.
Garrett Webster (4:13 PM)
JC, that is wonderful and I'm sure my dad would be proud of you. I thank you on behalf of my father for the work that you do. Any help I, or my family, can give so no more players fall through the cracks, we will offer. I wish my dad would have been contacted by somebody like you before it was too late. Tell the player who is in the Super Bowl good luck, and I hope that you accomplish your goal of making people more aware of the more serious injuries that can result from football.
Garrett Webster (4:14 PM)
And I will tell Brooke, 'Hello'.
Garrett I have just read the story on your dad on espn and as I read the story I became more interested in the story and life of your dad. Can you describe what happened to your dad a little bit after football?
Garrett Webster (4:19 PM)
Well Ray, first off, just so you know, there is more on this story on ESPN.com. But, I will also explain it because I believe it is important to tell it to anybody who wants to know. What happened after football, was that my father had injuries that he was not aware of. His injuries continued to deteriorate his body and his quality of life. Those injuries resulted in a broken family and a failed marriage. We also believe that it contributed to his failed business ventures and the loss of all of his money. We know that people just make bad investments sometimes, and we are not using his brain injury as an excuse for his bad investments. We are NOT asking the NFL for any of the money that my dad lost on these business ventures. We are not asking for reparations b/c of emotional damage. We are asking for what we believe is entitled to us in the bylaws of the NFL's disability and pension plan. That is, my father was completely and totally disabled in March of 1991. We have had four doctors including one that was chosen by the NFL, who have all agreed with our claim that Mike Webster was totally and completely disabled in March of 1991 with severe head trauma.
Walt (Bedford, MA)
The pain and anguish your family endured watching your father suffer cannot be appreciated by the average sports fan. Thank you and ESPN for educating us on the consequenses of repetive head injuries and the need for the NFL to step up to their responsibilities in this regard.
Garrett Webster (4:23 PM)
Walt, thank you very much, but also, don't forget about the normal people -- who aren't football players -- who suffer from brain injuries. A brain injury is very serious. Even though my father got his from playing football, there are also people out there who get them from everyday activities. The story that was put on ESPN.com about my father was largely placed there b/c of who my father was, and what he did -- and I am thankful that his story is coming to light -- but there are people in towns all accross the world who have the same exact problems, and they do not have the benefit of being an NFL player and having an outlet to the public like ESPN.com to make others aware of their problems. Even though you all think of Mike Webster when you hear brain injury, also think of the common man, because they don't have an NFL pension plan to fall back on.
SCOTT KURTIAK, SWARTZ CREEK MICHIGAN
GARRETT..... I GREW UP IN THE 70'S AND 80'S WATCHING FOOTBALL WITH MY FATHER AND GRANDFATHER (BOTH ORIGINALLY FROM PITTSBURGH) AND READING THE STORIES ABOUT HIM BROUGHT BACK SOME GREAT STEELERS / MIKE WEBSTER MEMORIES. YOU DAD IS A LEGEND AND A HERO OF MINE. THE MEMORY OF HIM SPRINTING OUT OF THE HUDDLE BARE ARMS EXPOSED TO WORST PITTSBURGH WINTERS WILL ALWAYS STICK WITH ME. HE WAS A TRUE IRON MAN.
Garrett Webster (4:25 PM)
Scott, thank you very much for those comments, and I want everybody to remember THAT Mike Webster -- the proud, bicep bulging iron-man that he tried to be. Know that he loved everyone of you fans and he always wanted to live up to your expectations of being a hero. That's why he would always make sure he stayed until every autograph was signed and every picture was taken.
Garrett Webster (4:29 PM)
I think everybody for taking an interest in our story and I love hearing how happy my father made you. I appreciate everything everyone has done, whether it be his fans, his teammates or the people at ESPN, it means a lot to my family and to everyone who is associated with Mike Webster that people have an interest in the balding old cowboy that he was. Remember Mike Webster for his giant hands. Don't have pity. Don't think of the bad times -- think of the good times and the happy times and the proud man that he was. I'm sure everybody sees my email address above, feel free to email me directly with any questions or stories or donations that you would like to give or share. I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible. I thank everybody who has taken an interest, whether you agree or disagree with us. And, I ask you all to call your father tonight and tell him that you love him. Don't wait until it's too late.
The ShowGirl (4:31 PM)
Thanks so much Garrett, thanks everybody for joining us today. Again, if you would like to reach Garrett Webster, please email him at BigWeb52@yahoo.com