Our Ron Lippock spoke with the newly appointed Youth Football Coordinator Joe Lofton about how he landed this opportunity and his football life in the region.
First, congratulations on the new role with the Steelers. How did you get started as the Steelers new Youth Football Coordinator?
Well, it kinda fell into my lap. You realize sometimes that things are often about timing. The position opened up at the same time that my PR internship wrapped up with the Steelers. I had a good reputation in the organization and had been there for over five years.
My first three years I was actually working on the youth camps and marketing, then worked in PR after I was recommended for the internship. When I started working there I just wanted to take off and succeed in the organization.
Now as the Youth Program Coordinator it’s a perfect match. I played at Woodland Hills and college at Tiffin University. I’m actually just wrapping up playing for the West Virginia Roughriders team. This isn’t just a job for me. It’s a passion – an ideal position for me.
What would you like to bring to the position and the organization in general?
I want to start off with some small steps and expand with more camps throughout the area and get our brand out there more. We could use more camps on the other side of town I think.
Another thing is, I’d like to engage with people more via social media. Millennials – we’re always on our phones. I’m looking for ways to increase our following and brand for youth football in the area. Many people don’t know what we do and haven’t been to a Steelers game.
How was working for Burt Lauten and that PR staff – anything you learn there that helps you in this role?
It was great – it’s one of the smallest PR staffs in the league, so it gave me an opportunity to show what I could do. It wasn’t even like an internship. You needed to bring your A game every day. It taught me the importance of consistency and detail; of being one step ahead of things. We tried to have a great rep in the community so we had to be two steps ahead of things. Burt was great, Dom (Rinelli) and Angie (Tegnelia), who started around when I did – it was a great group.
Being a Tiffin guy, did you meet and talk with Nate Washington?
I did. A couple of years ago he came in for a meet and greet with fans and he had the time of his life. The fans showed him some love and he enjoyed it. It’s not often you get to meet a guy who played at a small school like Tiffin. The program was very different when I played versus when he was there. I got a chance to talk with him and share some experiences playing there. He’s a great guy.
Any fun memories of your work with the organization so far?
Of course when I was first there I was star-struck seeing guys for the first time. Hines (Ward) and Troy (Polamalu), seeing them practice and being around guys like that was a great experience. And seeing the draft picks over the last five years progress like (J.J.) Watt and JuJu (Smith-Schuster), those talented guys and their growth was great.
I remember JuJu once, when we brought in some fans for a community relations event to meet the team. I was in the locker room for a media thing and JuJu went out of his way to come in and grab me. He autographed his own shoes and wanted to give them to a kid in the group. The kid was speechless. It was a dope moment. It reminded me it was the little things like that that made me appreciate this organization so much.
How does being a former player help you in the role now?
It’s helpful for sure. I have an athlete’s mindset and understand the gameday preparation and all of the things that athletes have coming their way every day. Events, interviews, that’s where I strive to help the players and understand the business-side of the game. I see why it’s so important to be involved in the community. The power they have in their hands to make someone’s day and over a lifetime is a big responsibility.
What should we watch out for in the upcoming season from the program you think we should watch out for?
Any kids wanting to learn football techniques, these programs are a great opportunity. I wasn’t involved in them when I was younger – I was more into basketball then – but if I did, I would have participated in them.
It’s the offseason now but during the season we’ll have more high school engagement. We’ll have the coach of the week in youth football, and the winners help with the coin tosses at the games. We also have the kickoff kid, where kids can go get the tee after kickoffs. These are just amazing experiences for kids that we’d like to see them get involved with.