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.



David J. Phillip/AP Photo

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.”


jayhawkr34 13 years, 6 months ago

Our program is a program you can talk about with some pride? Then why didnt you on the introduction part of the superbowl? what a piece of Bleep. and i hope you take time to read this.

Sean Rodger 13 years, 6 months ago

Nothing like putting out a story 2 weeks after the fact. Glad that this reporter didn't cover the National Championship last year!

Ted Toulouse 13 years, 6 months ago

EXACTLY what I was thinking! I was reading this hoping that question would be asked beacuse I checked the Steelers website during the game and he's listed as having gone to KU. what gives??

gutter 13 years, 6 months ago

jayhawkr34 - Why the anger? So the guy mentioned his High School instead of KU. Big deal! The guy busted his butt for KU and that's the appreciation you show to him? Dugan - Nice story, well written. So what if it's a few weeks after the Super Bowl? Some people just need to bitch about something.

Dyrk Dugan 13 years, 6 months ago

i was waiting for the "university of Kansas" as well on his intro at the Super Bowl...but that's ok that he said his high school, or whatever school that was. Jared Allen would give his fifth grade school or something like that, so it's no big deal.congrats Justin on being the anchor lineman on a Super Bowl champion team! Hope you have a nice career ongoing in Steel Town.

indianajayhawk 13 years, 6 months ago

I wondered the same thing -- no articles about a Jayhawk in the Super Bowl (thinking back to when Pierce & Pollard were playing in the Finals) and then his introduction was his high school rather than KU. Made me wonder if there had been some sort of falling out between Justin & KU.

Regardless, congrats on the win

ohjayhawk 13 years, 6 months ago

"Nothing like putting out a story 2 weeks after the fact. Glad that this reporter didn't cover the National Championship last year!"

Well, considering he was "vacationing in Hawaii last week", the reporter probably couldn't get the interview until this week. I know if I were on vacation, the last thing I would want to do is an interview.

As for him mentioning his high school instead of KU, I was a bit miffed at first, then I got to thinking. KU has multiple players in the NFL, and multiple players in the Super Bowl. Heck, KU has even had a Super Bowl MVP. How many players has West Des Moines IA high school sent to the NFL, let alone the Super Bowl? I don't know, but I'd guess it's quite a bit fewer than KU. Let the high school bask in the glory of having one of their own in the Super Bowl. With the way the program is going, KU will have plenty of other opportunities in the future for more Super Bowl players.

Ryan Gerstner 13 years, 6 months ago

Everyone calm down. They filmed the starting lineup intro way before the Super Bowl so Hartwig didn't have a chance to change it back to KU like he thought he would.

Blake Post 13 years, 6 months ago

Justin Hartwig is the reason I was for the Steelers. The Cardinals have former mildcat Beisel and other big 12 players. This is another brick in the wall of greatness that started with bowl victories in Fort Worth, Miami and Phoenix, KU bball champions, Pierce and the Celtics are champs, and now Hartwig and the Steelers are champs. Funny, but I can only see the upside to all of this. Now if I were to complain about something, what in the world would it take? Do you get my message? Some of you guys are going to complain about anything, and your life will be one long complaint. This is the greatest time for KU fans so I recommend finding ways to enjoy it instead of the alternative. If you are going to complain, the refs are always a good target...

zissou 13 years, 6 months ago

Some guys play their entire careers without getting a chance to play in the Super Bowl, so when they do, it's their one opportunity to give a "shout out" to the place where they're from. Believe it or not, hometown often takes precedence over alma mater, as well it should.

On a semi-related note, we should be happy that in the midst of all this BALCO talk, Dana Stubblefield is largely being referred to as the former San Francisco 49er, not Kansas Jayhawk.

railer1122 13 years, 6 months ago

They have the same thing all year... That's how he had it earlier in the year and they just kept it... Chill out, most people know he is from Kansas.

I mean Jared Allen said the Culinary Academy, these guys are just trying to have fun.

Ted Toulouse 13 years, 6 months ago

I'm a little surprised by everyone's response to this - I though more would feel a little slighted.
I'm not that upset, but it seemed weird that he didn't mention KU. 98% of the starters during the course of the NBC season tended to name their college, like it was a badge of honor. Which is why it struck me and caused me to wonder if he had a falling out with KU as well. Granted, there wasn't much to be pround of as a program during his tenure. But it still struck me as odd.
I'm glad to hear he still follows the program and I hope he feels like/is asked to be around KU more. Obviously having Super Bowl credentials would speak volumes to our guys.

OCJHAWK 13 years, 6 months ago

Ditto ttoulouse, my thought was he had a falling out with KU also when I saw his intro. I think it was completely classless.

The excuse of the HS or hometown, is a bunch of BS. Will he claim that his pee wee championship is his most important accomplishment the next time he is interviewed on national TV.

This is more like a stunt that a ego driven WR would do for attention. Have some pride Hartwig, or air out the dirty laundry so we can make a decision on your lack of maturity.

Annette Lee 13 years, 6 months ago

since we are looking for tv exposure, I think next season the media will fall in love with Todd (Flutie) Reesing...

jayhawkr34 13 years, 6 months ago

Well gutter, i am angry because 95% of those that were intorduced, mentioned their alma mater, for pride, for representation, for future players that are considering a college. Also, he didnt mention his high school like some say, he said "west des moines elementary", another stupid move on his part, made him sound like he didnt even goto high school, and yes i know he did. i guess it was too much to ask that he represent with some pride. I look at it like this, here pretty soon, future super bowl players from "The University of Kansas" will have alot more pride, and i hope they add the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" to it.

lv_jhwk 13 years, 6 months ago

Wow...I can understand disappointment over the fact that Hartwig mentioned his high school instead of his college, since I fall into that category as well. But to be so hurt as to bag on the guy? REALLY?!

The more I thought about it, the more I respected what he did. After all, would you have gone in to work today still talking about how "Hartwig. a former KU player, was on the Steelers" had he said it? Perhaps, but highly doubtful. I'm sure, however, that more students and alumni of West Des Moines High are doing just that. So I give props to Justin for recognizing some people who will truly appreciate the shout out and recognition!

13 years, 6 months ago

Not sure how legit this is, however I have heard that Justin and his father had a falling out with KU regarding the firing of Terry Allen and how it went down. They apparently had a close relationship with him - - probably a state of Iowa connection.

ohjayhawk 13 years, 6 months ago

"Well gutter, i am angry because 95% of those that were intorduced, mentioned their alma mater, for pride, for representation, for future players that are considering a college."

And your (and others bashing Justin) open hostility toward a former player for something so minor is helping the pride and representation of KU how? Don't kid yourself if you believe that some prospects don't read comments on these kinds of articles to get an idea of what the fanbase is like at a potential school. Dragging a former player through the mud over something so trivial is a great impression to make.

If he were the only one to have not mentioned his college alma mater, it would've been fishy. But, as railer said, they were just having fun. No harm in that at all.

chi_townhawk 13 years, 6 months ago

There is no West Des Moines High, Justin went to Valley High in W. Des Moines. Have to admit I was looking forward to hearing "The University of Kansas"... Could be a number of reasons why, but it's always nice to see Kansas players taking pride in wearing the jersey.

WDMHawk 13 years, 5 months ago

Fellas, Hartwig is a friend of mine and a great guy. I too wish he would have mentioned KU but apparently Mangino has treated him very poorly. I asked him if the football program is using his and other Hawk's success in the league in recruiting etc but he told me that Mangino bascially doesnt have anything to do with the players that played before his time. I've always really liked Mangino obvioulsy but that was really disappointing to hear. I can however guarantee that he is and always will be extremely proud to be a Hawk. Congrats to 'Wig and Rock Chalk

jayhawkr34 13 years, 5 months ago

again for thos who keep saying he said, west des moines high school, he said west des moines elementary, which again looks even more tasteless. I dont care how "good" of a guy justin is, he was wrong, and i am very disappointed.

Eurekahwk 13 years, 5 months ago

I would beg to differ with the statement that the TA guys practiced hard even if they didn't win. The only guys who busted their butts were Tom Hayes' guys. And they usually played well until about the middle of the second quarter when they wore down from being on the field too long.

TA practices were long and cumbersome, and the players acted as if they had better things to do.

Blake Post 13 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure that Mangino's job is to do much with former players. He is awfully busy. maybe he could delegate that... or how about asst AD Marchiony. He seems to do a lot of the PR stuff.

Hawks rule. Should have beaten misery, but that still doesn't erase our glorious victory over them in football, and misery fans are miserable about that. We must control the ball, not turn it over, and spank the mildcats and prepare for revenge game with misery.

Way to go Hartwig and Steelers... another glorious victory for a Jayhawk.

Besides, the greatest of all came back and was gratified that he would live forever in the Phog and said "Rock Chalk Jayhawk". Of course, that was Wilt.

Hawkish4bigM 13 years, 5 months ago

Justin may have mentioned his high school on the intro to create the impression that he went straight from HS to the NFL. Maybe his agent suggested it. One might get that impression. Wow, another Lebron, some fans might think. Or, he might have just been playing around, playing dumb, like he never went to college (as dumb linemen don't go to college, let alone graduate). So, it could have been very tongue in cheek. At any rate, I knew Terry (maybe its "Terri") Allen was bad but oh my, 16-29? That is really bad. I am sure the players worked real hard, but when you have such poor coaching it does not matter how good the players are. May we never sink that low again. That belongs to the Slavers (Misery) next door.

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