Athletes have to be able to block out the noise, ignore the naysayers and just focus on the task at hand, which is playing their respective sport and, for a lack of a better term, winning at all costs.
Yet, for Pro Football Hall of Famer and legendary Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the noise regarding his intellect on and off the field really bothered him. Infamously, Bradshaw was labeled a dumb player and person during his playing career, with former Dallas Cowboys menace Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson stating that Bradshaw couldn’t spell a three-letter word if spotted two letters.
In the lead-up to Super Bowl XII, Henderson spouted off, stating to reporters that “Bradshaw couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘t’.” Of course, Bradshaw went on to light up the Cowboys in that Super Bowl that the Steelers won, 35-31, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns on 17-of-30 completions, earning the game’s MVP award.
Yet, all these years later, Bradshaw — speaking with CNN’s Chris Wallace on his show Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? — stated that they bothered him, and that he felt he didn’t get enough support from the Steelers and Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Noll.
“I didn’t feel like personally, I didn’t get enough support from Pittsburgh,” Bradshaw said to Wallace, according to video via CNN. “I thought Chuck Noll could have stepped in and said ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I have heard of.’ After all, I called in my open plays. You can’t be too stupid and call in your own plays.”
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Bradshaw carried that down-home, “dumb” image as a Southern boy that knew nothing but football. Bradshaw was a star at Louisiana Tech, eventually becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Noll, who was in the process of turning the tide in the Steel City with the professional football team.
Some of those beliefs that Bradshaw was dumb were rooted in his struggles as a rookie to grasp the playbook and avoid turning the football over, which he did at a then-record pace, throwing 24 interceptions, which led the league that season and was the most ever by a rookie in a single season until Peyton Manning came along in 1998 and threw 28.
But the fact that the Steelers and even Noll didn’t come out with more public support for their quarterback then really rubbed Bradshaw the wrong way. It’s no secret that Bradshaw and Noll had their differences, with Bradshaw stating he was “scared shitless” of Noll and added that he wasn’t his kind of coach during their time gather.
Still, all these years later though, that dumb label bothers Bradshaw, as it should. He has, in the past, quipped that “I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid” and, “It’s football, not rocket science,” but the pain of that label and the discussion around it still bothers him.
“So I am upset. I do get upset by the dumb image,” Bradshaw said to Wallace. “I don’t like it being brought up. And I think probably some of my anger and frustration with it is I didn’t get enough support.”
Bradshaw has dealt with it in his own ways since then, letting his play do the talking, which ultimately led to him landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while also expanding his role on TV as a football analyst and a reality show star. Still, that portrayal of him being dumb does cause some pain.
“I’ve taken that image and had some fun with it.” Bradshaw told Wallace. “…I like to have fun in interviews. I like to entertain people. If it’s at my expense, I’m fine with it. But there are times, there are times, even at Fox, when it’s Terry’s always, you know the goofball and, and there are times where I’m I don’t say anything, but I do say to myself, enough, you know, enough.”