Shaun Suisham: Best in Class
This is going to be a tough article to write. One of my favorite Steelers announced today that he is leaving the NFL. I’ll let him start. Here’s the statement he released:
“Thank you Pittsburgh and all of Steelers Nation!
“Unfortunately, the injury I sustained in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game last preseason was catastrophic and has proven to be critical to continuing my career. My journey in the NFL has come to a crossroads.
“I was raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, as a hockey player and have been on an improbable 16-year journey as a kicker, competing at the highest level. The absolute nature of my position has given me the opportunity to test my resolve, and I have grown both professionally and as a man.
“Undoubtedly, I will miss the challenge of game day and the preparation that is required. Change is hard, but I’m comfortable with where I am in life as a husband and father.
“I will always be grateful to every team and coach that has given me an opportunity in the NFL. I am especially grateful to everyone —teammates, coaches and fans — in our adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Best always, Shaun Suisham and family.”
Through the years he has been on the team I’ve written a great many words about the Kickin’ Canuck, all of them good. He was a good kicker—in fact, by the end of the 2014 season, the last time he played for the Steelers before the iniquitous Hall of Fame game, he had accumulated a record as the most accurate kicker in the history of the franchise.
He was a good representative of his native country, and of his adopted one (he became a U.S. citizen in February.) He had the opportunity to make a speech at the ceremony, which he shared with a crowd of about 40 people, or so it would seem from the pictures. According to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, It touched on his time in Canada, his love for his family, his love for his new country, and his encouraging words for his fellow new citizens. Here are some of them:
“To have the opportunity to not just become a citizen, but to reflect on the last 16 years of my life, my entire adult life has been in the United States of America,” said Suisham, clutching a small American flag while talking. “I have a wonderful family. This was about family for me. I couldn’t stand the thought of ever being separated for any reason from my girls. That was the catalyst for going through this.”
“I have been here for my entire adult life. The United States has provided me and my family with a wonderful opportunity and I am extremely grateful for that. Pittsburgh and the United States of America is now our home. It’s a special day for me, especially to have my girls and wife here to share it with me.”
“It is my challenge for us all to embrace our newfound citizenship with all of our hearts, minds, and strength,” Suisham shared with the crowd. “Let us not be satisfied with being mediocre.”
“May we repay our country by conducting ourselves as good spouses, parents, friends and neighbors with an unrelenting desire to elevate our communities and country.”
Shaun Suisham is obviously a loving father and husband, as you can tell by what his wife Erin had to say:
“I am proud of the man he is, the football player, but more importantly the father he is.”
I have said before that in demeanor he reminds me of Troy Polamalu, a man who cares intensely that he does a good job, but who remains completely humble. In Suisham’s second week on the job the Steelers travelled to Buffalo to play the Bills. They got out of Buffalo with a win thanks to these two men. Troy had a timely interception, and Suisham kicked four field goals of over 40 yards, winning him the game ball and the designation as AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review went looking for Suisham in the locker room, hoping to get some good quotes. He was lucky to catch him, as he had game ball under his arm and had donned his overcoat to head for the team bus, doing his best to escape before anyone noticed.
As Starkey related on The Fan the next day, any attempts he made to get Suisham to say something good about himself were futile, as he related in the following dialogue:
Joe Starkey: “How did it feel to kick the game winner, Shaun?”
Shaun Suisham: “I was just doing my job. I could do it because a whole lot of other guys had done their job to get us to that point.”
JS: “But what about kicking at Heinz Field? Isn’t it a pretty difficult place to kick?”
SS: “Heinz Field is my favorite field in the NFL.”
Starkey reported that further questions elicited praise for Greg Warren, his long snapper. Joe finally gave up and let him go home.
I could go on and on, but it’s getting late, so I won’t. I’ll just leave you with this, from a video interview with Suisham on Steelers.com:
[Making kicks is] my job. It’s very easy for anyone to evaluate how I did. The same for myself. There’s nothing to hide behind, nothing to run from—it is what it is, and I own it. I take pride in the way I prepare for the game to put myself in the best possible position to succeed.
And succeed he did. The Steelers were incredibly fortunate to find someone like Suisham in the middle of a season. We saw last fall that the chances of picking up a really good kicker are, what, one in three, I guess. Happily, the kicking department seems to be in very good hands, thanks to Chris Boswell. And I have to admit I was not looking forward to the “camp battle” between the two.
All the best in your future life, Mr. Suisham. Thank you for everything you brought to the team. I hope the future is as bright for you as your time in the Black and Gold was for us.