Kozora: A Thank You

By Alex Kozora

I know I’ve written a lifetime of words the past couple weeks but hopefully you’ll allow me to write a few more.

August 14th made one year since being hired here at Steelers Depot. It was only fitting that the last day of training camp fell on the same day.

During this time, I’ve learned a lot about you guys. And through this article, maybe you’ll learn a little more about me.

Before the Pittsburgh Steelers opened camp, I figured I’d mention a little about everything that I had done in my first year. But then training camp happened, attending a couple practices turned into potentially ten, and by the end, we were at every one. It was an incredible experience, one that words will never do it justice. To give its due, that’s where I’ll focus much of this self-indulgence on.

The Place

St. Vincent College. Admittedly, I haven’t been to many college campuses. I only looked at two colleges out of high school, only applied to one – Clarion. It was close and more importantly, it was cheap. Student loans kick in six months after graduation. Big-money schools were out of the question.

My point is, I have only been to a handful of colleges. But I dare you to pick one more beautiful than St. Vincent. You can’t. Nestled in Latrobe, right off Route 30, is the prettiest place on Earth.

Fog that greets the hills in the morning, a sunset that says goodbye in the evening. Walk through the entrance and merchandise tent, and you come out on the other side with a panoramic view of Chuck Noll Field.

Walk to the other side of campus and you can stand next to the fencing for autographs. By the time the gates open, the line is a half-mile long. Once the staff gives them permission to enter, a sea of bodies sprints uphill to be first in line. James Harrison didn’t run this hard in the Super Bowl.

I’ve run it. I’ve watched it. From afar, you’d think someone was handing out the keys to a Ferrari.

For a kid, an autograph from Ben Roethlisberger is infinitely more valuable.

Smell the burgers and hot dogs wafting off the grill at the concession stand that – and I assure you this is not a paid advertisement – are reasonably priced.

There was one day where free black ‘n gold pierogies were handed out. Not the most aesthetically appealing but tasty nonetheless. On others, free cups of ice cream.

Spend as much or as little as you like. It’s as fan-friendly as they come.

Sit in the bleachers to take in practice and you’ll see the planes take and off and lane at nearby Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. It’s a little surreal the first time you see it.

As you leave, drive past the endless acres of corn that grows on campus. I bet more than one person has plucked an ear or two.

Put the Steelers on the field and you can’t replicate a more magical slice of the world than this. Food, football, and a view. Perfect.

The People

As in, the people I got to personally meet throughout camp. The names too numerous to list. But thank you all who came up, shook my hand, and said you read our work on Depot. It truly means a million.

Because Steelers’ nation lives everywhere, Steelers’ nation travels from everywhere to attend. I met people from New York, Washington D.C., and probably parts beyond. Stroll through the parking lot and you could recreate a map out of the license plates.

One-hundred percent true, once while walking into camp, I passed a line of six or seven cars. Not one of them were from Pennsylvania. All from different states.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the great group of personal friends I have who helped me go to camp. A family with one car isn’t exactly training-camp friendly. I didn’t think it was feasible for me to go to all 15 practices. My friends helped make it happen. Thank you.

The Readers

You all stole the show. It’s because of your support that made all of this worth it. The followers on Twitter, more than four times than what I had before camp began, the commenters on here, the listeners on The Terrible Podcast.

An enormous thank you to everyone or donate. $5 or $50, it was all more than I could have ever expected. I’ll have a real dinner instead of surviving on McChicken’s. Promise.

Like the people, the readers came from every corner of the world. Kind words sent from right here in Pennsylvania to California, Texas, Denmark, Quebec, Mexico, and even Brazil. It’s still difficult to wrap my mind around it all.

I know most of you will say you learned from me, but I learned one very important fact from all of you: You all care about every detail of this team. It’s not just about the headline-grabbing players. Where else can we have an intelligent debate the merits of keeping David Paulson versus Rob Blanchflower? How many other places are even mentioning where Wesley Johnson lines up in each practice? What other website has Lew Toler’s number one fan?

That’s what I love the most: the appetite for information. The X’s and O’s, the minor details of the team and the game, that’s what separates our writers and our readers from the rest.

And what a group of writers we have. A staff that works tirelessly. Someone tell Dave to sleep every couple of days. Someone give the heads up to Matthew that you’re not supposed to be able to write a first half recap before the TV crew tosses it to commercial. Someone alert Nick that preseason charting has been outlawed by The Geneva Convention. The daily outflow of information is nothing short of remarkable. Without a paywall in sight.

Final Thoughts

Might as well keep with tradition since that’s how I’ve seemingly been ending every article I’ve written the last three weeks.

I don’t do many things well. I’m the farthest thing from an athlete. A dreadful swimmer. Try to talk to a woman and I ramble on about “how mild this summer has been” for a half hour. It’s not pretty.

The one thing I am able to do, while I still have a lifetime to learn more about, is talk football.  Thank you for sharing that with me.

I was once criticized for not having access or talking to anyone. And the way that was inferred is correct. I’m not credentialed. I don’t get any quotes from anyone. I’m not walking the sidelines.

But that is such an incredibly narrow scope to define “access.” It implies reporting only takes place away from the sidelines. It ignores the most important part of the job – what takes place on the field. That’s what matters. Never lose sight of that.

As long as I have a pen, a notebook, and a pair of eyes to watch practice, I have all the access I could ever need.

Thank you all for one marvelous journey. It’s been an amazing year.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • AndyR34

    Alex – You are a very good writer with a fine eye for detail and the command of the language to bring it to us fully, yet succinctly. I have appreciated your fine work on SD for this past year…please keep up the good work!

  • toonasteel

    Great work kid…. I hope to hear more from you, but not to detract from your studies at Clarion.
    Speaking of Clarion, it is part of of the PA state university system. Take it from an old Slippery Rock grad, the PSAC schools have a solid academic rep and you’ll do fine.
    Good luck this year!

  • steeltown

    Kozora, I commend you. Well said and well done. What takes place ON the field is what matters most and it’s what I will always care about. Too much is lost in the drab reporting that most see on a daily basis on their favorite sports channel. It has become less about the game and more about personal accolades and who’s first to report something (usually having to do with something off-field), whether it be true or not. I myself do not watch or follow the major sports channels anymore because they are filled with mind numbing analysis from so called “experts” I depend on a site like Steelers Depot and people like Bryan, Marczi and yourself who genuinely love the game and want nothing more then to discuss and analyze their favorite sports Team – The Pittsburgh Steelers

  • toonasteel

    PS……you keep Dave in line on the Podcasts and that is a job in itself 🙂

  • Thank YOU, Alex, for an amazing trip through Steelers training camp! We could not make the trip this year ourselves, but it was made much easier everyday by reading your descriptions and details of every little thing that was happening on the practice field . You are so right….St.Vincent’s is the prettiest place on earth with it’s rolling hills and fresh air. And when my guys in black and gold are there, it becomes my happy place. I know this is just the first of many articles to come in the future that starts with the byline, “Kozora: ” Best of luck to you! And Dave, thank you for bringing this young man aboard Steelers Depot. We at Steelers Universe have been enjoying Alex’s commentary for quite some time now. Smart move! Now please go get some sleep! This season is gong to be exciting…and fast!!!!!! ~Sue

  • Weiss Chad

    Listening to steelers nation radio last night Iw Charlie batch I heard your name mentioned atleast three times.From callers and even batch tried to pronounce it which I think he did wrong lol. Anyway what I’m getting at is you are very appreciated for all the awesome work you do and as long as you are writing articles you will always have people reading them and appreciating your work.Id like to know the stat on how many times you were told great work?You are like Elvis to steeler die hards right now.

  • Salvador Renteria Ibarra

    Thanks for everything!

  • Jason White

    I certainly appreciate all your hard work. I had every intention of making it to training camp this year but my health dictated otherwise. But thanks to your observations, write ups and your podcasts with Dave that became my late night routine I was kept in the loop.

    PS: I heard your name, Dave and Steelersdepot mentioned a couple times last night on the 102.5 WDVE post game show with Charlie Batch. I thought that was pretty cool.

  • walter mason

    The most important trait to have in football is heart, and you got it Alex.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I’m sure I speak for many others when I say that your detailed accounts of each practice were what sated us during the terrible wasteland that is…the OFFSEASON! In all seriousness, though, I and other readers would be very much in the dark about who’s stepping up, and who’s disappointing without your eyes, ears, and notepad.

    We all have you to thank for bringing the 2014 black and gold picture more clearly into focus.

  • Gerardo Sanchez Mejorada

    Good job Alex. Enjoyed every minute of it. Someday I hope I can make the trip from Mexico City to Latrobe, hope to be able to shake your hand there.

  • chris ward

    Thank you Alex!. You did a remarkable job during training camp, Saint Vincent College in Latrobe is truly a beautiful campus, definitely has an astounding feeling. Steelers do it the right way, with going to camp away from the facility and giving their fans an ultimate experience for free. Steelers Nation appreciates all the hard work you put in at training camp during the last 3 weeks, with all the Twitter updates, training camp reports, and podcasts, it had me glued to the internets. Looking forward to your great content during the season!

  • Douglas Andrews

    Thanks Alex for the great reporting. Love your attention to detail keep it coming.

  • d – b

    Great stuff Alex. Your writing is clear and strong, and obviously you have an eye for detail. Thanks for your efforts, they are much-appreciated. Dave, you did well bringing Alex onboard!

  • Milliken Steeler

    Nice job Alex. I agree with you 90% of the time on your observations and that is really saying something with me, trust me.

    You are living the dream. You get to talk about the Steelers and at least be around the team and that is an accomplishment I was never able to make happen. I have nothing but respect and well wishes with your progression.

  • Dorian James

    Great job Alex, keep your nose to the grindstone I look forward to seeing you on ESPN one day.
    oh, and please do me a favor just go and say hello to Missy Matthews. what’s the worst that can happen.PEACE and good luck in the future

  • frednash

    I’m going to be lost without you!

    Please continue thru the season

    Your way better than anyone else. .

  • Jason Stephenson

    Coming from a Steeler fan from Illinois who eats, sleeps, and breathes wondering what’s going on with my beloved team everyday at training camp, let me be the first to commend you on the tremendous job you did. I started reading your articles last year and then I started hear your analysis on Steelernation radio, and I must admit, I was in shock when I heard how young you were. Don’t lose your philosophy when it comes to reporting, the hardcore fan doesn’t care nearly as much about player interviews or quotes from coaches. I want to know who won the one on one battle between Daniel McCullers and Wesley Johnson or did Shaquille Richardson hold his own against Martavious Bryant. Don’t change your style kid, you have an intellectual knack for this and you have found your niche in life.

  • Burgh Ball


    THANK YOU! Was great being able to read your many well written articles from training camp. Most of us can’t get to up to St.Vincent’s to watch and it was such a pleasure to have your eyes in the field. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    thanks again and much appreciated

  • Jakob

    Alex, you are the man, and I thank you for all of your hard work.

  • IndianaSteelerfan

    I graduated from the “Rock” in 1973. I was fortunate to be at the game that Franco caught the “Immaculate Reception”. Sitting in the end zone near Gerala’s Gorillas I saw the ball bounce in the air and the next thing I knew Franco was running towards us with the football.

  • socalsteeler

    Well said and well done. For those of us thousands of miles away we appreciate the details on the players abilities and struggles. Knowing who is participating and who is not along with when they play with whom. Allows us to keep our camp super stars to be in perspective. Thank you for being you and honest about what our players are doing as they grow.

  • cencalsteeler

    You had better be majoring in sports journalism over there at Clarion, you have found your calling. Just don’t forget us little guys when your rubbing elbows with Chris Berman later on down the road.

  • 20Stoney

    Thanks Kozora. Nice work. Your Twitter feed is my favorite during the games too. You always see different things while most everyone else is retweeting the exact same observation.

  • Steve

    Truly enjoy reading your articles Alex, they gave us everything we need to know about the Steelers. You are our eyes and ears at camp. Tremendous job you did that we all looked forward to reading daily. Hope this is done again next year so we don’t have to ready what others said about the team. Keep up the Great work.

  • Steeler4Ever

    thank you Kozora

  • Awesome writing Alex! Unfortunately I’m gonna need you to go on that McChicken Diet again next year! lol seriously though, GREAT job reporting on every practice. I got on this site every day and read every one!

  • Josh

    Solid work Alex. You’ve got a knack for this. Loved the added color about random details of your day, too. Especially when catching up at midnight after a long day -nice to spend a little time with a fellow Steeler fan…

  • AzheDraven

    Thank you Alex! I’ll try hard to get a plastic card to donate something for you to go to Buffalo (If there is where the Bills practice) next year! We gonna need you there!

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Good stuff man! Thank you for your hard work. Maybe we need to find someone to get you credentials….I can only drool about what you could give us then!

  • Trey Brooks

    Good thing your not a ladies man or you could’nt chart preseasons games bud.

  • J&LSteeler

    Thanks, Alex. I attended my first camp this year due to reading your daily posts. I could hear you talking in my ear as I watched the sights and sounds with my very own eyes and ears. Your posts were a must read on this site. Thank you,

  • Ethan Marines

    Alex, you did a fantastic job with your daily reports! It was a pleasure to meet you down at camp this year! Keep up the terrific work!!!

  • dirtbag66

    Great job Alex. Much appreciated.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Not sure I could have said that any better. Kozora, great job. This site is where I come to for all my Steelers info. I refuse to listen or watch anything on radio or tv that is called a sports station. I’m grateful to have found you guys here at the Depot.

    Thanks for all of your hard work in providing useful info that helps us understand what really is going on with our favorite team. Here we go Steelers, Here we go!!

  • Jason Scott

    Thank you, Alex. Your work is fantastic. I grew up in Mars, Pennsylvania and now live Boston. I’m still a die hard Steelers fan (and always will be) but getting any kind of information/love for the Steelers is next to impossible in New England. Your articles are invaluable those of Steelernation who are stranded outside of the PA state-lines.

  • Alex Kozora

    You all are the best. I know this is where I belong.

  • Alex Kozora

    I did hear that this morning. They did get it right the second or third time. I had a teacher last year – very nice lady, respect her a lot – who still butchered my name at the end of the year despite me having her both the fall and spring semester. So I’m used to the butchering.

  • Alex Kozora

    Get well soon, Jason.

  • Alex Kozora

    That’s what I always tell myself.

  • Craig M

    Your sports coverage is like a drug that has run out and there’s no rehab available- all is lost! Good luck in your future endeavor hope to be hearing from you on the Steelers again.

  • Alice Moore

    Thank you Alex for all your hard work, and dedication. it has been terrific reading all of your tc reports, and of course checking out the pics! I hope to be able to make it out to St. Vincent’s next year.

  • GoSteelerz

    Well, from Lew Toler’s number 1 fan LOL, I thank you and appreciate all your efforts. You get the real deal the behind the scenes stuff going way beyond hype and popularity. The fans really mean something to you and so you really mean something to the fans. A big thank you and I look forward to your future reports! 😀

  • SteelerDave

    I seldom post anymore but I do read every article on Steelers Depot. Thank you Alex, your love for the Steelers and your ability to write about football is very clearly evident.

  • Rubem Dornas

    I am here all the time reading the posts you write to keep me informed. Although I am Brazilian I consider myself part of the Steelers Nation. In 2012 I was in Pittsburgh just to watch my beloved team in person!

    I really like to be informed about the Steelers and thats why I love this website and their writers. Obviously, Alex, you are included on them. I hope you can keep you work here for many years! Thank you!

  • Zach

    Great job Alex, we are the ones who should be thanking you for those detailed camp reports. Specially for those of us who are far from the burgh, it makes us feels almost like being in Latrobe. A big thank you from a Brazilian fan — you would be surprised how many steelers fans we have down here!

  • Zach

    a quick question after the praise: do you think M. Adams has improved significantly in pass protection? the T depth is concerning to me. it would be great to have a post with your judgments on which backups/fringe players from last year improved/stayed the same/regressed after training camp/preseason. Guys like M. Adams, C. Carter, C. Wallace, B. Arnfelt, S. Thomas.

  • Alex Kozora

    I don’t think he has. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks otherwise. OL depth is a concern.

    We’ll talk more about that second question after the preseason.

  • Zach

    thanks Alex — glad to hear that we share a similar opinion!

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I too want to chime in with my thanks for the great work you did covering training camp. I hope you can do the same thing next year.

  • Swe De

    You da Man!

  • Josh

    Me as well. PGH >BOS. Feel like it’s either Red Sox season or waiting for Red Sox season in this town. Even with the success they’ve had…