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On the Sidelines with Brett Keisel

October 1, 2008

Steelers.com will bring you a regular feature throughout the season titled On the Sidelines where Teresa Varley will sit down with players and help you get to know them away from the game.

Defensive end Brett Keisel is an imposing figure on the football field, but off of it he has a big heart and uses that to make a difference in the community.

Keisel hosts the annual Cystic Fibrosis 65 Roses Sports Auction, an event that he warmed up to as soon as he met some of those who suffer from CF, including one of the Ambassadors, five-year old Emma Chichilla.

“To be around her and see her smile and laugh pulls strings on your heart when you see it first hand like that,” said Keisel. “I have relatives with the same disease so anything we can do. It’s easy for us to do too. We go out there, show our faces and sign some autographs. It makes a big difference that’s why it’s important to do it.”

Keisel is no different than today’s kids, having played sports at a young age, and that is why he wanted to get involved with What Moves U? What Moves U is a curriculum-based activity program designed to fight childhood obesity by motivating middle school students to get up and move. Teachers incorporate physical activity into their lesson plans to help children become more fit while they learn.

“It’s important because in today’s day and age we are in an obese nation where a lot of kids are overweight,” said Keisel. “It’s easy for me to come out and try to tell kids to eat healthy and get active and try to lead a healthier, happier life style.”

His commitment doesn’t stop there as he is involved with Animal Friends and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.

Keisel talks about his start in football, community efforts and different topics in this installment of On the Sidelines.

When did you start to play organized sports?

I was five or six and played basketball. My dad was the coach. My brother and I played on a team the Junior Jazz in Utah. We weren’t any good but we enjoyed playing and being around everybody like now, being around the guys is fun.

What about football, when did that start for you?

I played football when I got older. Anything we could do on the playground we played.

What advice would you give to a kid whose dream is to play in the NFL?

My advice would be to go out now and have fun with their friends. Get out and get active. Enjoy being young and filled with energy and life. Once you get older and in school you can concentrate more. But enjoy being a kid.

When did playing in the NFL start to become a reality for you?

When I got here. I didn’t think about it until that point. I didn’t think about it in college. Once I got here and got situated and saw the talent I was up against I was relatively confident I could do it.

Why is it you have gotten so involved in the community?

It’s so easy for us to give back. It’s easy to make an impact. I see guys like Charlie Batch and Ben Roethlisberger get involved and what they do. All of the other guys too. I think the Steelers have a great organization in that way that they do give back to the community and that is important.

You have a special fondness for the Cystic Fibrosis Sports Auction because of Emma. Why is that?

When I was a younger player Mike Schneck was involved and I went and supported it and thought it was fun and a worthy cause. The first time they asked me to head it and I went down and met Emma, I knew I was doing the right thing. She is a breath of fresh air along with all of those other kids that are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. It puts things in perspective when you get involved with things like that.

Animal Friends is another “pet” charity of yours and you even adopted a dog from there right?

We got involved with them by chance. We were at an event for Homeless Children’s Education and the founder of Animal Friends approached us. My wife had been on me for a while about getting another dog for our black lab, Deegan, because he was looking pathetic and looked like he needed a friend. We went down and adopted Luka and she has fit into our family well.