Athlete Spotlight: Jason Worilds

words_Jordan Hagedorn

The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. A bunch of the Steelers playing in this game were also on the 2008 Super Bowl Championship squad. However, there are some newcomers, including the versatile first-year man out of Virginia Tech, Jason Worilds.

After foregoing his senior season at Virginia Tech, Worilds was selected with the 52nd overall pick by the Steelers in the NFL Draft in April of 2010. He became part of the Steelers’ linebacking crew that includes studs James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior, among others.

Jason Worilds

I talked to Jason early in the season after recording his first sack in a 38-13 win over the Bucs. We talked about our shared love of sneakers; Jason is a big sneakerhead, and before I asked him some football-related questions, we talked about everything from Foamposites to Pennys to the obvious Air Jordans. Even when I was talking to him about football he interrupted me in the middle to talk about some shoes he spotted on the Eastbay site.

He went on to tell me one of his favorite sneakers is the Eggplant Nike Foamposites he got in college. He said, “It set me back for a couple weeks, but I had to have ‘em,” but after signing his rookie contract, he said, “It’s a little easier for me now.”

When it comes to his passion for sneakers, he said, “What really sparked my love for shoes, believe it or not, was back in elementary school, I had the Jamal Mashburn FILAs. Ever since I had those, I had to have everything that was hot.” He also talked about how happy he was when the Eastbay catalog in the mail with his name on it. “The first book I had that came in my name. I feel like all kids feel the same way, when you see it in the mail with your name on it, you just say ‘Yeah this is mine ma, you can’t touch it!’ I got a few things but it was more so a wish list because I wanted everything.”

When it comes to sports, here is what Jason had to say:

At what age did you get into sports?
I’ve always been around sports. I’m the youngest of the men in my family, of my generation anyway, and I was always a tagalong, so baseball, basketball, whatever they did I did.

What pro athletes did you admire growing up?
Michael Jordan. Jordan is still my favorite athlete. As I got older I got into Ray Lewis, Lawrence Taylor, Barry Sanders, Ken Griffey, just great athletes. I like Ray Lewis’ intensity naturally. His approach to the game and LT’s approach to the game.

What sports did you play growing up?
In high school, I played football and I ran track.

What went into you choosing to play football at Virginia Tech?
It just felt right. It had the perfect blend of team chemistry and what they were trying to do with the program, I felt like I could add to that.

Talk about Virginia Tech, Coach Beamer and what they mean to you.
Coach Beamer is a good dude. He’s a positive role model for a lot of people in the Blacksburg community. He runs a tight ship and he preaches character. He tries to build young men of character.

Talk about hearing your name called on Draft day.
It was dream come true. You work towards something for the majority of your life at that point and you finally see all of your hard work come to fruition. You’re living your dream and your family gets to live it out with you.

The Steelers are playing real well. Talk about being a part of the Steelers organization.
I’m so young in this league to really appreciate what’s really going on around me. I play for the premier team in the NFL, with premier players ahead of me at a premier position on the defense. To be a part of it is special, second to none.

What are you passionate about off the field?
You mean other than my sneakers? Music. Movie-watching. I have a little bit of everything on my iPod right now: Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Kanye. I have a big movie collection. I’m trying to catch sister-in-law – she’s got over 1,000.

What advice would you give younger athletes?
Keep working. Nothing is given. There’s gonna be bumps and hard times and obstacles along the road. There might be people telling you that you cant do it. Don’t let anyone stop you from your dream.

There’s no doubt that Jason is living his dream by being in the NFL, and it’s especially exciting since he’s going to the Super Bowl in his first year. I caught up with him just before he flew to Dallas for the Super Bowl and he said, “It’s gonna be crazy.” He also talked about how his rookie season has been a pretty cool ride with a lot of ups and downs. He was down because he had some injuries and missed some playing time, but enjoyed being out on the field contributing to the team. At one point in the season, he led the Steelers in special teams tackles. He talked about what he has learned from some of the veterans on the Steelers: “I’m learning how to approach the game and how hard they work.” I also asked him what the most fun part about his rookie year has been, and he responded by saying, “The amount of people that come out to support you and to go out there and represent and be a role model.”

Win or lose on Sunday, Jason will continue to learn from his experiences, work hard, improve and be a role model. And of course, he’ll be buying sneakers along the way.

To see Jason talking to Eastbay at the NFL combine, check out the video below.

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