Mike Webster

Michael Lewis Webster (March 18, 1952 – September 24, 2002) was an American football player who played as a center in the National Football League from 1974 to 1990 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, class of 1997. Nicknamed "Iron Mike", Webster anchored the Steelers' offensive line during much of their run of four Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1979 and is considered by some as one of the best centers in NFL history.[1]

Webster was the first former NFL player diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).[2] Since his death, he has become a symbol for head injuries in the NFL and the ongoing debate over player safety.[2] His doctors were of the opinion that multiple concussions during his career damaged his frontal lobe, which caused cognitive dysfunction.[3]

Webster died at the age of 50 of a heart attack.

Mike Webster
refer to caption
Webster playing for the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV
No. 52, 53
Position:Center
Personal information
Born:March 18, 1952
Tomahawk, Wisconsin
Died:September 24, 2002 (aged 50)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school:Rhinelander
(Rhinelander, Wisconsin)
College:Wisconsin
NFL Draft:1974 / Round: 5 / Pick: 125
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:245
Games started:217
Fumble recoveries:6
Player stats at NFL.com

Football career

Mike Webster was regarded as the best center in the Big Ten during most of his career at the University of Wisconsin. At 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Serving as a backup at center and guard for two years while being mentored by veteran center Ray Mansfield, Webster became the team's starting center in 1976, where he remained for 150 consecutive games. He was the Steelers' offensive captain for nine years.[4] This ended in 1986 when he dislocated his elbow, causing him to sit out for four games. With the Steelers winning Super Bowl IX, X, XIII, and XIV, Webster and Terry Bradshaw form one of the most well-known center–quarterback pairs in history. Webster was honored as an All-Pro seven times and played in the Pro Bowl nine times. An avid weightlifter, Webster was known for playing with bare arms to keep opponents from grabbing his sleeves.[5] Webster is also perhaps the best-known of a long line of All-Pro centers for the Steelers. From 1964 to 2006, just four men started at that position: Mansfield, Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings. In his last year in Pittsburgh, Webster returned the favor by mentoring the then-rookie Dawson in the same manner Mansfield had mentored Webster earlier in his career.

Retirement and legacy

Webster was a free agent after 1988 season. He was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who initially made him an offensive line coach before allowing him to return as the starting center. Webster played two seasons in Kansas City before announcing his retirement on March 11, 1991 after a 17-year career with a total of 245 games played at center. [6] At the time of his retirement, he was the last active player in the NFL to have played on all four Super Bowl winning teams of the 1970s Steelers. He played more seasons as a Steeler than anyone else in franchise history (15 seasons), one season ahead of Terry Bradshaw and Hines Ward. Ben Roethlisberger tied Webster's record in the 2018 season.

While, at the time of his retirement, the Steelers were no longer officially retiring jerseys, Webster's No. 52 has not been reissued by the team since he retired. In 1999, he was ranked number 75 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The football stadium at Rhinelander High School, his alma mater, is named Mike Webster Stadium in his honor.[7] Webster was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.

Post-football life

Webster was proven to have been disabled before retiring from the NFL.[8] After retirement, Webster had amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle pain. He lived out of his pickup truck or in train stations between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, even though his friends and former teammates offered to rent apartments for him. Teammate Terry Bradshaw regularly covered expenses for Webster and his family, while Steelers owner Dan Rooney paid for a hotel room for Webster for over three months.[9] Nonetheless, Webster continued to disappear from contact with friends and family for weeks without explanation. He exhibited erratic behavior, and became so agitated and restless that he used electroshock weapons on himself to induce sleep.[10]

In his last years Webster lived with his youngest son, Garrett, who though only a teenager at the time, moved from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh to care for his father. Webster's wife Pamela divorced him six months before his death in 2002 of a heart attack at age 50.[11][12][13]

Webster's body was cremated and the ashes were divided among his wife and their four children.

Ailments

After death, Mike Webster was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease.[14] Webster was the first former NFL player diagnosed with CTE. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist, examined tissue from Webster and eight other NFL players and determined they all showed the kind of brain damage previously seen in people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, as well as in some retired boxers.[11] Webster's brain resembled those of boxers with "dementia pugilistica", also known as "punch-drunk syndrome".[15][2] Omalu's findings were largely ignored by the NFL until Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was diagnosed with CTE shortly after his death at age 26 in 2009.[16] Webster's son Garrett now serves as the administrator to the Brain Injury Research Institute in Pittsburgh, which is dedicated to encouraging individuals who have had head trauma to donate their brains after death as well as being an advocate to players who have similar conditions that his father had.[2]

It has been speculated that Webster's ailments were due to wear and tear sustained over his playing career; some doctors estimated he had been in the equivalent of "25,000 automobile crashes" in over 25 years of playing football at the high school, college and professional levels. His wife Pamela stated years later that she felt that she caused Webster's change in personality in the years before his death and placed guilt on herself over her decision to divorce Webster, until discovering after his death about the CTE diagnosis.[2] At the time of his death, Webster was addicted to prescription medication.[17]

Nicknamed "Iron Mike", Webster's reputation for durability led him to play even through injuries. Contrary to rumors, Webster never admitted to using anabolic steroids during his career, even though they were legal at the time.

His struggle with mental illness, as a result of CTE, at the end of his life was featured in the 2015 film Concussion. Webster was portrayed by David Morse and Dr. Omalu was portrayed by Will Smith.

Lawsuit

Webster's estate brought a lawsuit in Maryland's U.S. District Court against the National Football League. The estate contended that Webster was disabled at the time of his retirement, and was owed $1.142 million in disability payments under the NFL's retirement plan. On April 26, 2005, a federal judge ruled that the NFL benefits plan owed Webster's estate $1.18 million in benefits.[8] With the addition of interest and fees, that amount was estimated to exceed $1.60 million. The NFL appealed the ruling. On December 13, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, affirmed the Baltimore federal judge's 2005 ruling that the league's retirement plan must pay benefits reserved for players whose disabilities began while they were still playing football.

References

  1. ^ Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of PA. Mike Webster Archived October 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d e Late Steelers great Webster's case launched the CTE brain debate Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 14, 2013
  3. ^ "Former Steeler Webster dies at age 50". ESPN Classic. Associated Press. October 3, 2002. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  4. ^ "Mike Webster".
  5. ^ Colin Webster. Reflections in Iron: Mike Webster’s Training Methods. 2011.
  6. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/12/sports/sports-people-pro-football-webster-retires.html
  7. ^ Hodag Facilities Foundation :: Home Archived July 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b "Webster v. NFL" (PDF). ESPN.
  9. ^ Jeanne Marie Laksak, Concussion (2015). ISBN 0812987578
  10. ^ Laksak, 2015
  11. ^ a b Frontline. "The Autopsy That Changed Football". PBS. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  12. ^ Frank Litsky. "Mike Webster, 50, Dies; Troubled Football Hall of Famer". The New York Times, September 25, 2002. Accessed December 26, 2015.
  13. ^ "Tyler Drenon. "Mike Webster autopsy 'one of the most significant moments in the history of sports'". SB Nation, October 8, 2013.
  14. ^ Researchers: Late NFL player had degenerative brain condition - ESPN
  15. ^ Laskas, Jeanne Marie (September 15, 2009). "Game Brain: Football Players and Concussions". GQ.
  16. ^ Chris Henry data sound football alarm Archived July 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, ESPN. com, Johnette Howard, June 29, 2010.
  17. ^ Engber, Daniel. "Concussion Lies". slate.com. The Slate Group. Retrieved December 26, 2015.

External links

1972 Wisconsin Badgers football team

The 1972 Wisconsin Badgers football team was an American football team that represented the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the 1972 Big Ten Conference football season. In their third year under head coach John Jardine, the Badgers compiled a 4–7 record (2–6 against conference opponents) and finished in ninth place in the Big Ten Conference.Rufus Ferguson led the team with 1,004 rushing yards, was selected as the team's most valuable player, and was chosen by the Associated Press (AP) as a first-team running back, and by the United Press International (UPI) as a second-team running back, on the 1972 All-Big Ten Conference football team. Three other Wisconsin players received All-Big Ten honors: center Mike Webster (UPI-2); offensive guard Keith Nosbusch (AP-2, UPI-2); linebacker Dave Lokanc (AP-1, UPI-2).

1973 Wisconsin Badgers football team

The 1973 Wisconsin Badgers football team represented the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the 1973 Big Ten Conference football season.

1974 NFL Draft

The 1974 National Football League draft took place at the Americana Hotel in New York City, New York, on January 29–30, 1974. Each of the 26 NFL teams were granted 17 selections for a total of 442 picks.Many experts consider the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers to have had the best draft in NFL history as they selected four players later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster). The closest any other team has come to this success in a draft is the Dallas Cowboys’ 1964 draft, when three Hall of Famers were taken.The Houston Oilers had the first pick in the 1974 draft based on their one-win record in 1973, but they traded the first overall pick—as well as the first pick of the third round, #53 overall—to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for defensive end Tody Smith and wide receiver Billy Parks. Dallas used the two picks to select two future Pro Bowlers, defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones and quarterback Danny White.

This was the first NFL draft since 1938 to not have any quarterbacks taken in the first round, and one of only five. Along with 1988, it is the only draft where no quarterback was taken in the first two rounds, and 1974 is generally regarded as one of the worst quarterback draft classes of all time, with only fourth round pick Mike Boryla reaching the Pro Bowl, and even Boryla was out of the NFL by 1978.

1974 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 42nd in the National Football League. They impoved to a 10-3-1 record and culminated in a Super Bowl championship. The team became the first in the Steelers' 42-year history to win a league title following the franchise's greatest playoff run to that point.

1978 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 46th season in the National Football League (NFL). The season concluded with the team winning Super Bowl XIII to become the first franchise in the NFL to win three Super Bowl titles. The championship run was led by quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the team's vaunted Steel Curtain defense. Bradshaw put together the best year of his career to that point, becoming only the second Steeler to win the NFL MVP award. Ten Steelers players were named to the Pro Bowl team, and four were judged as first-team All-Pros by the AP. Head coach Chuck Noll returned for his tenth season—moving him ahead of Walt Kiesling as the longest tenured head coach in the team's history to that point.The Steelers entered the season as defending champions of the AFC Central Division, coming off a 9–5 record in 1977. Despite winning their division, the previous season was a difficult one for the team (both on and off the field) which culminated in a division round playoff loss to the Denver Broncos on Christmas Eve.

The team began the 1978 season with seven straight victories, before losing to the Houston Oilers in prime time on Monday Night Football. They finished the season with a league-best 14–2 record, including a 5-game winning streak to close the season. This record assured them they would play at home throughout the 1978 playoffs. It was also the best record compiled in the team's history (since surpassed only by a 15–1 mark in 2004).The 1978 Steelers team was rated the thirty-fifth best team in the history of the NFL (to September 2015) by FiveThirtyEight, a polling aggregation and statistical service. The rating is based upon FiveThirtyEight's proprietary Elo rating system algorithm. Only two Steelers teams were rated higher: the 1975 team at twelfth and the 2005 team one slot ahead of the 1978 team at thirty-fourth.

1980 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1980 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 48th season in the National Football League.

The Steelers struggled for the first time in many years. The aging defense was not as effective as it had been in the 1978 and '79 seasons, falling from 2nd to 15th in yards allowed. The Steelers also surrendered 313 points, ranked 15th in the league, compared to 262 points (5th in the league) the previous season. The Pittsburgh defense only garnered 18 quarterback sacks.

The offense was still plagued with 42 total turnovers, 42 total, but ranking 6th in total offense, and scoring 352 points.Despite the team's troubles, the Steelers could have again obtained home-field advantage throughout the playoffs had they not lost several close games, including games against Cincinnati and Cleveland in which they lost despite having large leads in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh remained in the playoff hunt until a 28–13 loss to Buffalo in week 12 and then a 6–0 loss to Houston effectively eliminated Pittsburgh from the postseason.

To many, these two losses marked the end of the Steeler Dynasty. Several key players retired after the 1980 season and the team was never the same again. The 1980 season was the first in which the Steelers did not qualify for the playoffs since 1971.

1982 All-Pro Team

The 1982 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League (NFL) players that were named to the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers Association, and Pro Football Weekly in 1982. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the four teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. The Sporting News did not choose a 1982 All-Pro team due to the players' strike.

1989 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 57th season as a professional sports franchise and as a member of the National Football League. They were considered a rebuilding team filled with many young players, especially after the release of longtime center Mike Webster in the offseason. The young team showed its inexperience in the first game of the season, when they lost at home to the archrival Cleveland Browns 51–0. The loss marked the Steelers worst defeat in franchise history. The following week wasn't much better, losing 41–10 to another division rival, the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals.

However, the Steelers clinched the final playoff spot in the last week in the season with a 9–7 record. Chuck Noll, in his 21st season as the team's head coach, was named the NFL's Coach of the Year for the only time in his coaching career.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Steelers would have a memorable come-from-behind overtime victory over the division-rival Houston Oilers 26–23, which saw Gary Anderson kick a game-winning, 50-yard field goal in the extra period. The following week, the Steelers nearly pulled off a major upset against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium before losing 24–23 on a Melvin Bratton one-yard touchdown run with 2:22 remaining in the game.

Though the Steelers would not make the playoffs again under Chuck Noll (missing in 1990 with an identical 9–7 record and again in 1991 at 7–9 despite a second-place finish that year), the season did set the tone for the team's return to prominence in the 1990s under his successor, Bill Cowher.

Until 2015, it was the last season the Steelers made the playoffs in a season the Super Bowl aired on CBS. Each of the next six such seasons (1991, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012) would see the team missing the playoffs.

2014 Illinois elections

A general election was held in the U.S. state of Illinois on November 4, 2014. All of Illinois' executive officers were up for election as well as a United States Senate seat, and all of Illinois' eighteen seats in the United States House of Representatives. Primary elections were held on March 18, 2014.

Brain Injury Research Institute

The Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI) is a center for the study of traumatic brain injuries and their prevention that was founded in 2002.Its founding members include: Julian E. Bailes, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at West Virginia University School of Medicine and former NFL and current NCAA team physician; Bennet Omalu, M.D., forensic neuropathologist, who is the Chief Medical Examiner for San Joaquin County, California, and Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Davis; and Robert P. Fitzsimmons, Senior Partner at Fitzsimmons Law Offices, in Wheeling, West Virginia.The Institute has established a brain and tissue bank. It now houses 20 brains for future research.Bennet Omalu was the first to identify chronic brain damage as a factor in the deaths of some National Football League players. He discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brain of Pro Football Hall of Fame player Mike Webster in 2002. Webster's son, Garrett Webster, is BIRI's administrator & player liaison. Omalu participated in former NFL player Junior Seau's autopsy after the latter's 2012 suicide.

Concussion (2015 film)

Concussion is a 2015 American biographical sports drama film directed and written by Peter Landesman, based on the exposé "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas, published in 2009 by GQ magazine. Set in 2002, the film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who fights against the National Football League trying to suppress his research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brain degeneration suffered by professional football players. It also stars Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks.

The film premiered at AFI Fest on November 11, 2015 and was released by Columbia Pictures on December 25, 2015. The film grossed $48 million worldwide and received mixed reviews, although Smith earned a Golden Globe nomination.

Craig Wolfley

Craig Wolfley (born May 19, 1958) is a former American football player and current sideline reporter for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Along with former teammate Tunch Ilkin, he hosts a show on 970 ESPN.

David Morse (actor)

David Bowditch Morse (born October 11, 1953) is an American actor, singer, director and writer. He first came to national attention as Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison in the medical drama series St. Elsewhere (1982–88). He continued his film career with roles in The Negotiator, Contact, The Green Mile, Dancer in the Dark, Disturbia, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Rock and 12 Monkeys.

In 2006, Morse had a recurring role as Detective Michael Tritter on the medical drama series House, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. He portrayed George Washington in the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams, which garnered him a second Emmy nomination. He has also received acclaim for his portrayal of Uncle Peck on the Off-Broadway play How I Learned to Drive, earning a Drama Desk Award and Obie Award. He has also had success on Broadway, portraying James "Sharky" Harkin in The Seafarer. From 2010 to 2013, he portrayed Terry Colson, an honest police officer in a corrupt New Orleans police department, on the HBO series Treme. He also appeared in the WGN America series Outsiders (2016–17).

Dick Haley

George Richard Haley, Jr. (born October 2, 1937 in Midway, Pennsylvania) is a former American football cornerback in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played college football at the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted in the ninth round of the 1959 NFL Draft.

He was a Player Personnel analyst for the Miami Dolphins. He was Director of Player Personnel for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971–1990 as well as the New York Jets from 1991–2002. Haley is frequently credited with selecting the Steelers' renowned 1974 NFL Draft class which included four future inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The rookies—Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster—would help lead the team to Super Bowl IX and three more Super Bowl championships by the end of the decade.He is the father of Todd Haley, former offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns and the Steelers as well as the former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Engerica

Engerica were a British alternative rock band heavily influenced by metal, grunge and punk. The several styles incoroprtated into their music made them difficult to categories for music fans and industry professionals. Despite that the band gained a cult like following and towards the end of their career received support from major British music industry publications including Kerrang!, RockSound, BigCheese and Metal Hammer music magazines.

Gerry Mullins

Gerry Mullins (born August 14, 1949) is a retired American football player.

League of Denial

League of Denial is a 2013 book, initially broadcast as a documentary film, about traumatic brain injury in the National Football League (NFL), particularly concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The documentary, entitled League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis, was produced by Frontline and broadcast on PBS. The book was written by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. The book and film devote significant attention to the story of Mike Webster and his football-related brain injuries, and the pathologist who examined Webster's brain, Bennet Omalu. The film also looks closely at the efforts of researchers led by Ann McKee at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where the brains of a number of former NFL athletes have been examined.

Mike Webster (Canadian football)

Michael Webster is a Canadian clinical psychologist and former Canadian Football League player for the Montreal Alouettes and BC Lions, and Grey Cup champion. He was also a successful professional wrestler.

Webster first learned football in Vancouver and used those skills to play at the famous University of Notre Dame. He returned home to play one season with the BC Lions, 16 games, before he was traded to the Montreal Alouettes. He played 4 seasons and 56 games with the Larks, winning the Grey Cup in 1970. He was also a player representative, and his activities got him traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Faced with a substantial cut in pay, he retired from football. He had also studied psychology at McGill University while in Montreal.

Being very big, and having met several football players that were wrestlers, professional wrestling became his next career. From 1971 to 1976 he became Iron Mike Webster on the wrestling circuit. During this period he completed his master's degree at Western Washington University. After leaving wrestling he completed his PhD in 1981 from Western Washington.

This led to his final career as a clinical psychologist, teaching at "the British Columbia Police Academy, the Canadian Police College, Europol, and the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia." He has specialized "in working with police crisis teams." This includes the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas in 1993, the 1995 standoff at Gustafsen Lake, B.C, and testifying at the Braidwood Inquiry.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional American football team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers compete in the National Football League (NFL), as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) North division. Founded in 1933, the Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC.

In contrast with their status as perennial also-rans in the pre-merger NFL, where they were the oldest team never to win a league championship, the Steelers of the post-merger (modern) era are one of the most successful NFL franchises. Pittsburgh is tied with the New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl titles (6), and has both played in (16) and hosted more conference championship games (11) than any other NFL team. The Steelers have won 8 AFC championships, tied with the Denver Broncos, but behind the Patriots' record 11 AFC championships. The Steelers share the record for second most Super Bowl appearances with the Broncos, and Dallas Cowboys (8). The Steelers lost their most recent championship appearance, Super Bowl XLV, on February 6, 2011.

The Steelers, whose history traces to a regional pro team that was established in the early 1920s, joined the NFL as the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 8, 1933, owned by Art Rooney and taking its original name from the baseball team of the same name, as was common practice for NFL teams at the time. To distinguish them from the baseball team, local media took to calling the football team the Rooneymen, an unofficial nickname which persisted for decades after the team adopted its current nickname. The ownership of the Steelers has remained within the Rooney family since its founding. Art's son, Dan Rooney owned the team from 1988 until his death in 2017. Much control of the franchise has been given to Dan's son Art Rooney II. The Steelers enjoy a large, widespread fanbase nicknamed Steeler Nation. The Steelers currently play their home games at Heinz Field on Pittsburgh's North Side in the North Shore neighborhood, which also hosts the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Built in 2001, the stadium replaced Three Rivers Stadium which hosted the Steelers for 31 seasons. Prior to Three Rivers, the Steelers had played their games in Pitt Stadium and Forbes Field.

Mike Webster

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