All 10 episodes of Roll The Tape are now available to stream exclusively on ESPN+, and Front Row continues its check in with people featured in vintage footage from ESPN’s vaults.
Next up is Oliver Gibson, a former Notre Dame star and NFL defensive tackle who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns between 1995 and 2003.
He reveals how challenging it was to compete in a firefighter competition that featured some of his fellow NFL players. It’s all revisited in the ESPN+’s Roll The Tape Episode 7 “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.”
Was the 2000 Firefighter Combat Challenge, an annual competition which has been billed as “the toughest 2 minutes in sports,” as hard as it looks?
Yes. As an athlete, you think you can be superior in any physical challenge. But boy, was I mistaken! It was at that moment I gained a newfound respect for firefighters.
What was the best and worst part of competing in that event?
The best part was the physical challenge and getting to put on all that equipment, which is far heavier than you’d think. The worst part was getting exposed in the offseason, as far as me not being in as good a shape as I thought I was. When I did that interview afterward, I was gassed. I was trying to keep enough composure to save face for when I got back in the locker room.
What was the best memory you have of playing in the NFL?
My rookie year in Pittsburgh we went to the Super Bowl, which was tough to live up to the rest of my career. I guess my best memory is the AFC Championship Game when we beat the [Indianapolis] Colts and realized we were going to the Super Bowl. I can’t really break it down to one game or moment because just getting to play pro football for a living was an honor, a privilege, and a blessing. The locker room, game day, and payday were some of the best moments of my life.
What are you doing now?
I’m coaching high school football, and most recently, I was a middle school student mentor. Due to increasing health issues, I had to step aside.
How has your playing career – and doing things like the Firefighter Combat Challenge – affected how you live today?
Actually, the firefighters challenge was one of the most memorable experiences I had in my NFL career. That event actually made me contemplate becoming a firefighter after football. I used to live about 50 yards from a fire station, and I’d go there and hang out with the firefighters, just out of respect. But it was at that time I realized there’s no way in hell I could pass the physical!
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In the video above, Roll The Tape hosts (L-R in thumbnail) Treavor Scales, Christine Williamson and Gary Striewski react to a sampling of the footage culled from ESPN’s archives.