Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2009

Super-sized relief: Ex-Jayhawk Hartwig wins championship with Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Steelers center and former kansas university football player justin hartwig, right, celebrates with coach Mike Tomlin after their 27-23 Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Hartwig, who played center for Kansas from 1998-2001, was relieved that his holding penalty in the end zone didn’t cost Pittsburgh a championship.

Pittsburgh Steelers center and former kansas university football player justin hartwig, right, celebrates with coach Mike Tomlin after their 27-23 Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Hartwig, who played center for Kansas from 1998-2001, was relieved that his holding penalty in the end zone didn’t cost Pittsburgh a championship.

February 12, 2009

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A flag flies in the end zone after Pittsburgh Steelers center Justin Hartwig (62) is called for holding during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on  Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Luckily for Hartwig, an ex-Kansas University center, it didn’t cost the Steelers the game. Pittsburgh went on to defeat Arizona, 27-23.

A flag flies in the end zone after Pittsburgh Steelers center Justin Hartwig (62) is called for holding during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Luckily for Hartwig, an ex-Kansas University center, it didn’t cost the Steelers the game. Pittsburgh went on to defeat Arizona, 27-23.

For a few minutes two Sundays ago, it looked like the goat of Super Bowl XLIII would be Kansas University alum Justin Hartwig.

With 2:58 remaining in a game his Pittsburgh Steelers were leading 20-14, Hartwig, the team’s starting center, was flagged for a holding penalty in the Steelers’ end zone, resulting in a safety that paved the way for a quick Arizona Cardinals touchdown drive that put Pittsburgh in a 23-20 hole with 2:37 to play.

“I was definitely in a state of shock,” said Hartwig, who claims to have been “miffed” at the call. “At that point, I was just hoping I wasn’t going to be the guy to have the play that lost the game.”

Luckily for the seven-year NFL veteran, he wasn’t.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger moved the ball steadily upfield, with the help of a stout offensive line, and Santonio Holmes smuggled a touchdown pass out of the air in the game’s final moments, ensuring Hartwig — after a Kansas career in which his teams went a combined 16-29 — a spot at the top of the sports world.

“It was totally surreal,” said Hartwig, who was vacationing in Hawaii last week after Pittsburgh’s 27-23 win. “I’ve never really won anything like this. I had family and friends there, I was just plucking people out of the stands and bringing them down. I was definitely one of the last people to leave the field.”

If Hartwig’s postgame celebration stretched a little longer than his teammates’, you’ll have to forgive him — success hasn’t always come easily for the West Des Moines, Iowa, native.

From 1998-2001, he played on some of the worst Kansas teams of the past decade, during a time when Big 12 North titles and Orange Bowl invites were too heavy to fathom. In his five years with the program, including a red-shirt season in 1997, the Jayhawks never made it to the postseason, never finished with a winning record and won just 10 Big 12 games in 40 chances.

Hartwig was able to distinguish himself a bit as an offensive tackle, earning honorable mention all-Big 12 honors as a junior and second-team honors as a senior.

But the team, for reasons unbeknownst to Hartwig, couldn’t put it together on Saturday afternoons.

“Despite our record, we worked really hard,” Hartwig said. “The fans might not have always been able to see that on the field, but we put everything we had into winning football games, and I do look back with pride about how hard we worked.”

After being selected in the sixth round of the 2002 draft by the Tennessee Titans, his fortunes took a sharp turn for the better. The Titans finished 11-5 and 12-4, respectively, in Hartwig’s first two seasons, and after a couple mediocre years with the Carolina Panthers, he signed with the Steelers prior to the 2008 season and promptly won the starting center job.

In the meantime, his alma mater — after back-to-back bowl victories and 20 total wins in the past two seasons under coach Mark Mangino — has established itself as a player in the Big 12 North.

“Kansas football is now a program that you can speak about with pride,” he said. “Especially in our locker room; there’s a lot of trash talk that goes on with other guys. (But) there’s a lot of pride with Kansas football right now, and I’m real proud to be associated with it.”

Of course, being associated with the Steelers hasn’t been too bad, either.

Asked about the celebration after the Steelers won an NFL-record sixth Super Bowl, Hartwig said: “I think we partied for three straight days.”

Comments

hawkman8950 6 years, 3 months ago

Congrats to Hartwig, got to know him well when i was at KU on the equipment staff after Allen felt the pressure and cut a lot of us walk-on's. On a side note however, almost three weeks later and now a write up? I know it isn't basketball or anything but knew if it was a former KU basketball player heaven knows LJW would have had a story up the next day if not the same day.

Greg Woolen 6 years, 3 months ago

I follow alumni that are playing in the pros and was really excited for Hartwig to be starting on a team on the biggest stage in football and to see the introductions where he would proudly say that he was from the University of Kansas. I have to say that I was disappointed when Justin's turn came and he called out his high school hometown instead of the university that helped him develop his skills. I am curious why Justin says, "Kansas football is now a program that you can speak about with pride. Especially in our locker room; there’s a lot of trash talk that goes on with other guys. (But) there’s a lot of pride with Kansas football right now, and I’m real proud to be associated with it,” but yet he wasn't so proud of it that he wouldn't claim us in the introductions.Congratulations to him. He played a great game if you take away the safety.

Eric Beightel 6 years, 3 months ago

I was expecting this very same story maybe the Tuesday or Wednesday after the Super Bowl...not almost 2 weeks later.

Come on, LJW! Get in the game!

1029 6 years, 3 months ago

F#@% Hartwig!

Didn't anybody see the taped player intros that they showed at the beginning of the game? Players normally say their names and what college they played at, but when it was Hartwig's turn he said his name and then "West Des Moines High School".

Why didn't he say he went to Kansas? Was he ashamed that he went here?

1029 6 years, 3 months ago

Also, be aware he made his comment about being proud to be associated with Kansas football after the game. It was only to appear to not be disrespectful.

1029 6 years, 3 months ago

Oh, I see Wooleybooly did notice. Beat me to it.

topflight 6 years, 3 months ago

1029 - I was hoping I was not the only one that noticed that. I realize other players do that, but he did it 2 weeks in a row. I am betting it is not becuase of his great high school teams, it is because KU was worse than piss poor when he played and he was embarassed (and should be). And honestly, do you think he gives a damn about KU now. His tradition or coaches have had nothing to do with their turnaround. NOTHING. Why should he care about KU now. At least Monty Beisel did not win one.

number1jayhawker 6 years, 3 months ago

Guys to be fair to Justin, they taped that introduction for NBC during the season, so he had no idea that it would be played before the Super Bowl.

packs_of_wild_dogzz 6 years, 3 months ago

number1jayhawker (Anonymous) says… "Guys to be fair to Justin, they taped that introduction for NBC during the season, so he had no idea that it would be played before the Super Bowl."

what does it matter if he knew it would be played for the super bowl or not? the majority of players state what college they're from. he apparently didn't feel strongly enough about his college alma mater to do that. screw him.

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