When Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown reported to training camp this summer, he informed fans he wouldn’t be on social media during camp. Instead, he offered to respond to every fan who sent him a “snail” mail to the camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
Crates of letters followed. The Steelers No. 1 receiver had stirred “Steeler Nation.”
Some were cards. A few were photo albums. Most were well-written notes replete with expressions of love for Brown and the Steelers.
But one package from US Army Specialist Tom McAllister stood out. McAllister gave his good conduct medal, earned for exemplary behavior in three years of service to his country, to Brown – a memento of appreciation.
The Army specialist, a mechanic with the 25th Infantry Division of the US Army stationed at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa, Hawaii, also sent along a Steelers “Terrible Towel,” which the wide receiver signed and returned to him.
The burgeoning bond between Brown and this die-hard Steelers fan is the subject of feature this weekend on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m., ESPN).
In the piece, reported by Jim Trotter and co-produced by Tory Zawacki and Zach Budman, the Countdown crew joins Brown as he opens the mail from fans.
“With all the items Antonio received from his fans, the medal seemed to represent something different,” said feature producer Zawacki. “At that moment, Antonio realized just how big of an impact he has on Steelers fans.”
The wide receiver said he cherishes what the medal represents and will “wear it in his pocket” when he’s having a rough day. And for Spc. McAllister, that’s all he wanted – to share his medal with his favorite Steeler.
“It was a cool moment because, as a sportswriter who is around athletes all the time, I sometimes forget the impact these players can have,” said Trotter, who interviewed the U.S. Army Specialist at his station in Hawaii. “It all comes rushing back when you see Tom choked up and unable to speak as he watches tape of Antonio discussing his appreciation for Tom and what all service men and women do for our country.”
Editor’s Note: Sunday NFL Countdown (ESPN, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.) is a three-hour NFL pre-game show featuring host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson; as well as reporter/host Wendi Nix with NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.