Updated: May 15, 2021
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Legend Andy Russell
A two time Super Bowl Champion who is an awe-inspiring leader and philanthropist
He embodies a profound generous spirit, an ironclad work ethic and a boundless sense of adventure
Andy Russell was only 15 years old when his parents challenged him to spend the summer biking from Scotland to Italy on his own. They said they would give him $400; if he needed more than that, he would have to earn it along the way. Andy not only completed the journey but returned home with $150 in hand, which he returned to his parents.
“This was their way of teaching me to become self-reliant, confident that I could find my own way in the world,” Andy said. “It was a life-changing experience. I left as a nervous little kid; I came back with self-confidence and the awareness that I’d found my way all over Europe.”
Back in high school after the summer adventure, Andy was quickly gaining notice as a football star. He received scholarship offers from 25 colleges his senior year but decided to stay in Missouri to attend the state university. His junior year, he led the team in rushing and pass receptions; by senior year, he was leading the nation in interceptions.
Having gone through college in the ROTC program, Andy was obligated to fulfill his military service before he could seriously consider a career with the NFL. But when he found out that he wasn’t required to be at military training camp until January, he accepted an offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers to play for one season before heading overseas. That rookie season with the Steelers turned out to be a banner year for Andy. An injury to the starting linebacker during the first quarter of the season opener meant that Andy started for the rest of the season and made the All Pro Rookie Team. The team came close to a championship, losing in the final game to the New York Giants.
Two years of active duty in Germany, serving as a second lieutenant and as a three-star general’s aide,followed. When Andy returned from Germany, the Steelers were waiting – and so was his dream of going to graduate school. Soon Andy had earned his MBA and was not only a linebacker who would go on to help the Steelers win two Super Bowls over the course of a 14-year career, but was also an entrepreneur starting up an investing company called Russell Investments.“It was 24/7,” said Andy about his dual roles. But I loved every minute of it. It was fun and challenging and interesting.”
It turned out that both careers — that of the financial investor and that of the pro ball player — would intersect in unexpected ways. A former Steeler who has also entered the world of high finance moved to Beirut and urged Andy to visit him there, with the prospect of future business deals in mind. “I told him I’d visit once we won the Super Bowl,” he said. Since Andy had returned from Germany, the Steelers hadn’t even come close to playing in the Super Bowl; it certainly seemed like a foolproof promise. But as it happened, that year they won the Super Bowl, and his friend was on the phone the next day, asking him to make good on his word.
It was the beginning of a fruitful and fascinating new vocation for Andy. For the next eight years, he would make regular trips to destinations around the world, where he would pitch to investors during the day and then offer football talks and clinics to locals and schoolchildren. “We went to Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, New Delhi, Bombay, Kuwait, Frankfurt, and London every year,” he recalls of one tour. “It was such an interesting experience.” Though he has now been retired for decades, Andy works both his body and his mind almost as hard now as he did in his twenties and thirties. He contributes generously to the Steelers’ charitable efforts and has also started his own foundation, the Andy Russell Charitable Foundation (www.andyrussell.org) , which for nearly four decades held Pittsburgh’s biggest celebrity golf tournament and supports causes related to health care and human services including Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund, the Ronald McDonald House, Leukemia Society, the Cancer Society, Economics PA, Cystic Fibrosis, Mother’s Hope, Juvenile Diabetes, SIDS, and Pittsburgh Vision Services.
He also became an author, with three books already published: Beyond the Goalpost, A Steelers Odyssey and An Odd Steelers Journey,and a fourth book in the works. In his books, he writes of football, outdoor adventure, his core values, and the fundamental strength of character that he learned from his parents and has now passed on to his children and grandchildren. All proceeds from the books go to the Andy Russell Charitable Foundation (www.andyrussell.org) . As someone who has embodied unshakeable ethics and moral values from his years as a high school football player well into his current life as a leader in the charitable giving community, Andy Russell embodies the character strength of an Insightful Player® team member.
Andy has devised a clever acronym to represent his Guiding Principles: ANIMALS. A – attitude. “Don’t complain about a situation; turn it into something positive.”
N – never quit. “Don’t give up on what you want to accomplish. Work at it as long as it takes.”
I – integrity.“Always tell the truth and be honest.”
M – motivation. “Coach Chuck Noll of the Steelers used to say ‘I will never give a motivational speech to my players. If I have to motivate you, I will fire you.’ The most important things you will get done are the things you believe in most. Find and nourish your own sense of motivation from within.”
A – accountability. “Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility for your shortcomings.”
L – leadership. “One of my proudest achievements is that I was captain of my high school team, my college team, and then the Steelers for ten years. I was selected by the coach, not the players. It wasn’t a popularity contest; it was a reflection of my leadership skills. Show others that you have the strength, patience and vision to lead the way.”
S – Strength of character. “This is the sense of right and wrong, and the willingness to live by your values, that should underlie everything you do. Be sure that every action you take is a proud reflection of your character.”
Andy Russell On The Total Tutor
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Former Pittsburgh Steelers Captain and 7-time Pro Bowler Andy Russell is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.