Holiday Chat With Super Bowl Champion Turned Analyst, Willie Colon • Latino Sports

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Holiday Chat With Super Bowl Champion Turned Analyst, Willie Colon

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Loisaida, NY – Sitting inside one of his favorite restaurants in the Lower East Side, I already knew what my first question was going to be for William M. Colón. Although I love to eat, I wasn’t going to ask this Bronx native about the mouth-watering delicacies I happened to peruse on the menu.

I figured that would be for another time with my former student who at 6’3”, 320 pounds and a size 17 men’s shoe is still the same young man I met 17 years ago.

But, there’s also something else about this NFL player that is STILL the same – his enormous heart. He’s loves his tight-knit family, his beautiful fiancé, his beloved alma-mater, Cardinal Hayes, his supportive community and certainly has an extraordinary love for the game of football.

And now, for the EXCLUSIVE – “Willie, are you officially retired?”

“Yes, I’m gonna hang it up,” stated Colón matter-of-factly.

Nevertheless, I did ask him if a playoff team called him directly and said, “Willie, we need help on the line. Could you be ready in three weeks?”

Not surprising, his response was rather quick; “Yes, in a heartbeat. I would give it one last shot. Without a doubt.”

Now, that Colón swapped in his trademark football for a microphone, his presence inside the SNY studios and at ESPN Radio has already created a rather interesting buzz for this first-year analyst.

For this former Pittsburgh Steeler, New York Jet and eternal Super Bowl champion, he is simply content on suiting up with a different kind of wardrobe.

And for William M. Colón, this new attire fits him extremely well.

This year marks your 10th anniversary on being drafted into the NFL. What are your recollections from that day?

I think it was more about the timing and the opportunity. It was all of blessing considering where I came from in the Bronx and coming out of Hofstra. Being drafted to a team that already won a Super Bowl and an organization that understands what it is to be a leader. To last as long as I did in the NFL, you are going to have to make sacrifices. The journey has been amazing.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl and it happened early in your career. What are your recollections on playing in the biggest game of a NFL player?

I tell everyone I don’t remember the game itself. People will ask me what was going through my mind on the last drive, for me it was more the journey of getting there. I remember losing to Philadelphia in Philly, and then the next week having to play Baltimore for a division game that meant a lot and beating Baltimore.

We played Baltimore three times that year. This was when Baltimore was Baltimore. They were the “Evander Holyfield of the League”. Those guys would knock you out. To be able to beat those guys, the guys that I played with that were on that line, to this day, we are extremely close. The relationships that were developed truly mean something.

Being back in New York, playing for the Jets, we know we are not going to the playoffs. Now, that you are a part of the media, what do you see has to happen for the Jets in 2017 and beyond?

It’s important to find a franchise quarterback. If you look at where the league is at, it’s a “quarterback-driven” league. All of the big teams have a big time quarterback that if the team isn’t playing well, they can get them over the hump on any given Sunday. You need a quarterback who can make the big throws and be a game manager; someone who can put on the Superman cape and take over the game.

If you look at what Ben Roethlisberger does, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers have done, they all have that “big play” ability. We have to start building around [Leo] “Big Cat” Williams. He’s amazing, he’s young and he can be the staple to that defense. Quincy Enunwa had a breakout year. He has big play ability and we have to revamp the offensive line.

You’re now officially in media. What has been the toughest part of the job from making the transition of a NFL player to now being an analyst? You might have to ruffle some feathers that might not sit too well with the players.

From the start, one of the things I had to do was talk to the man in the mirror. I could never be as good as James Brown, [Chris] Berman who have been in the profession for a long time. I’m really starting from the ground up. I had to let go of my ego and really understand the mechanics of being an analyst, being on TV and doing research.

In New York, they will pull your card if you are wrong and it has nothing to do with who you are. Sometimes if you know the why and you are emotionally attached, it’s hard to talk about it. That’s the position I find myself in. I know why the Jets are having those issues but I have to walk that line of friend and media. It’s tough because they know you said something. Your true friends know you have a job and a role to play in.

Let’s talk about Superbowl champ and fellow Bronxite, Chris Canty who you have worked with on ESPN radio. Tell me how did the relationship start and is there a future show in the works?

Hopefully this really takes off with Chris [Canty] and it can become something. Think about it: two Bronx guys with Super Bowl rings who are passionate about sports and social issues. But I believe the flair we have is because we are from “the hood”.

We aren’t from the suburbs so we have a different social aspect on how we see things. The thing about sports, it’s always evolving. The one thing about sports is the older I get, I try to listen more. I find myself listening more because that’s how you evolve.  It’s hard always listening to yourself and being dismissive to other opinions. Sports are entrenched in our culture and it’s my passion.

Now a little bit of Willie Colón trivia: Who was the defensive player(s) that gave you the most trouble?

There were two players: Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens and now with Detroit Lions) and Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills

Your annual Turkey and Toys giveaway that you helped organize in your old neighborhood in the Melrose projects, it’s a fabulous idea. Tell me a bit about your involvement?

It’s not only me but my family, my fiancé helped organize the logistics. I had to reestablish my role in the community. This was my opportunity to give back to people who watched me grow up. It was also for the kids. For example, there was a kid who waited a half an hour outside the turkey drive.

When we were cleaning up, he walks up to me with a football and said, “Are you Willie Colón?” I’m like, “Yeah”. He was about 10 years old and he said, “I’ve been following you. I play for the Bronx Steelers and I’m going to Cardinal Hayes because of you.”

We started talking sports, I gave him a turkey, signed some autographs. But it was that moment that made it real for me. I realized there was no one when I was growing up that I could gravitate to. But, for him to connect with me, it was a special moment.

Let’s switch the topic: The Yankees. Your thoughts on the off-season moves and 2017?

It’s definitely parallel with what’s happening in sports. They are finding talent right at the peak time. It’s not these super young kids but when there’s enough maturity, they strike and the window of being great is short. So [Brian] Cashman knows [Aroldis] Chapman can only throw over 100 for so long, but they need him.

CC isn’t that guy anymore. They have young talent offensively but have to continue to build up. I believe Cleveland is a threat, Chicago, it was their year, but I can see another run. But from the Yankee standpoint, I believe the next three years, if they continue to build on that foundation, it will grow.

Let’s have some fun: Favorite food?

I’m a rice and beans kinda guy, some pernil (roast pork) all day but my all-time favorite American dish is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade biscuits.

Favorite Place?

Turks and Caicos. I’ve been there three times and every time you get off the plane, it’s as if they give you the keys to the island. And I love Puerto Rico.

Final question…Three dinner guests?

I would have loved to sit down with Redd Foxx (comedian, Sanford and Son), Michael Jackson and former boxing champ, Roberto Duran.

About Danny Torres

Bronx native, Danny Torres is a high school teacher, an avid baseball fan and freelance sports journalist. Besides his work with Latinosports.com, he has written for MLB.com, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y, the N.Y. Mets, the Puerto Rico Daily Sun and Manhattan Times. He was a frequent guest on 'Solamente Pelota', a now-defunct sports program on XM/Sirius satellite radio. In 2010, he contributed to an updated prologue for the re-released book, 'Clemente, the Enduring Legacy' by Kal Wagenheim. In 2011, as part of a series commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month on MLB.com, he contributed to a five-part series saluting the greatest Latino pitchers in baseball. Finally, in December, 2011, he participated in a panel discussion connected with the Smithsonian exhibition, 'Beyond Baseball, The Life of Roberto Clemente' in Baltimore, Maryland. In December, 2012, he appeared on the front page of 'El Diario/La Prensa', a NY Spanish daily newspaper and was featured in a five-part series dedicated to the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente who tragically died 40 years ago.

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