When the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, and millionaire players wear so many pads they look like mummies except for mouths that never stop yapping, one Rock Hill guy will not be there. John "Jack" Wiley had tickets, but he will watch on TV because he gave the tickets to his grandkids.
You get tickets straight from the Steelers owner when you played for the Steelers. Wiley played from 1946 to 1950, after years in the military during World War II.
Those were the years when the players were without a facemask, wearing a leather helmet. So, there is a good reason his nose is mashed like a spud.
"You had to be tough in those days to play football," said Wiley, now 88.
One Web site, oldestlivingprofootball.com, lists Wiley as the second-oldest living Steeler -- just a year younger than one other guy named George Gonda who played in 1942. Just 64 men who have played NFL football are older.
Wiley was a tackle, a lineman, playing both offense and defense for the 60-minute games. Yet he was just 5 feet, 9 inches tall -- maybe -- and less than 200 pounds.
He was a farmer during the offseason back then, and a bubble gum card for the 1948 season stated that Wiley, "considers playing football his vacation."
"One time, I was on the side with a broken hand, and the coach comes up and says, 'Whatsamatter with you?'" Wiley recalled. "He said, 'Get a pad over the cast and get out there.'"
Wiley went right out there and lined up against some behemoth and knocked heads again. Then he went home to his farm near the West Virginia line after the game and fed the cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.
You did that in those days when a good season netted a guy such as Wiley a $300 bonus.
"And I thought I was rich with the $300," Wiley said.
It is easy to find Wiley at Rock Hill's Westminster Towers independent living, where he came about a year ago from Florida to be closer to a son and his family who live in York County.
People around call him "the football player." On the third floor, only one room has the Steelers' famous "Terrible Towels" hanging outside. Inside are more pictures and stuff from the days when Wiley tackled legendary Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh and Baugh declared, "Fine tackle, fella." Then, the guys helped each other up.
Wiley was No. 75 before Mean Joe Greene made that number famous for the Steelers.
"Somewhere, we have a picture of John standing next to Joe Greene, and John can fit below Joe's arm," said Wiley's wife of 64 years, Helen. "Players have gotten bigger over the years."
But I doubt players got tougher.
In 1950, Wiley had given up football to work that farm. The coach called and asked, "Do you have all the hay in the barn? I need a tackle."
"So, I went down there and played another season," Wiley said. "First game, I had two days' practice."
After pro football, Wiley coached at the University of Pittsburgh and his hometown Pennsylvania alma mater, Waynesburg University -- where the stadium is named after him.
Wiley scouted for the Steelers for a year, then was in the yearbook and class ring business before retiring to Florida.
When the Steelers opened a new stadium a few years ago, Wiley was invited back to be honored by the team. That's the last Steelers game he saw in person.
Sunday, he will watch the game in Tampa, Fla., on TV with Helen at his side. Wiley said he expects his Steelers will win the game -- "if they play tough."