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Christy defined by hard work

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000


TAMPA -- It was Jan. 12, 1975, and the Christy clan was ensconced around the television at their Freeport, Pa., home, watching the Steelers upend the Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX.

Elmer and Carole didn't know then, of course, that their youngest child, Jeff, then almost 6, would go on to become a Pro Bowl center in the NFL. Who could make such a prediction?

Then again, it isn't that much of a surprise. This they were certain of: Jeff could -- and almost always did -- accomplish anything he put his mind to.

He was talented, sure. But he was also determined. A hard worker. Resourceful, smart and clever.

"He was pretty daggone good at anything he did," Elmer Christy said. "As luck would have it, at that (age), you never know what life is going to bring. But he was always, what you might say, an opportunist.

"He seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He always handled everything well."

Elmer recalls how Jeff would just plop down in front of the TV and start working out: "He would always be doing sit-ups or push-ups, even as a little kid." But Jeff had a role model then. Brother Greg, his senior by seven years and a future NFL player himself, for Buffalo, set the example early.

"Greg lifted weights religiously," their father said, "and Jeff always wanted to lift weights, but I would never let him. I had Greg teach him the proper technique, just using a bar and no weights on it. That's how he got started."

Christy's mother recalls her son's athletic origins.

"He has a lot of God-given, natural talent," Carole said. "He was good at everything, no matter what he did. He has trophies, ribbons, awards for every sport.

"He was just a very, very dear son."

Ask Jeff about his childhood and the 31-year-old rattles off few details.

He was a Steelers fan. A big Steelers fan. He was brought up in a blue-collar world, lived a "middle of the road" life, and is proud of both. His parents worked hard for Jeff; sister Marcia, six years older than Jeff; and Greg to ensure the family never wanted for anything.

There was baseball and football in the back yard and bike riding everywhere, and hunting and fishing trips with his father.

It was a time Christy was just beginning to realize his athletic potential -- yet didn't know enough to understand what being injured was all about.

"I remember playing backyard (tackle) football," he said. "It was always fun. I dislocated my little pinky finger. At the time, I didn't know enough that it was supposed to hurt. I just popped it back in.

"I didn't cry until I got to the hospital and they told me what I did."

Q: What was your life like back then?

A: My life was very simple. We weren't struggling by any means. Looking back, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Q: Who was your role model then?

A: I looked up to my parents. But my brother, Greg, was my role model growing up. I always looked up to him. He was an older guy, and he played football, baseball and track.

Q: If you could impart some wisdom to yourself back then, what would it be?

A: I would say that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

SUPER BOWL IX

Jan. 12, 1975

New Orleans

Steelers 16, Vikings 6

MVP: Franco Harris, Steelers running back (34 carries for a Super Bowl-record 158 yards and a touchdown).

IN THE NEWS: Jan. 1: Former Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon advisers H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman are found guilty of the Watergate coverup. Feb. 21: Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman are sentenced to 30 months to eight years in jail. April: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge take over Cambodia. Sept. 5: President Ford escapes an assassination attempt in Sacramento, Calif. Sept. 22: Ford escapes a second assassination attempt.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: The Godfather Part II

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: The Hustle/Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: Little House on the Prairie

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