Thrill of competition fuels Wolfley

CRESSON – Craig Wolfley has enjoyed a colorful, fulfilling life on and off the football field, and perhaps one of the biggest reasons why has been his willingness to step outside of his personal comfort zone.

Wolfley, 57, has been a sideline reporter for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Radio Network for the past 14 years, after spending 12 seasons in the National Football League as an offensive lineman, including 10 with the Steelers.

In his younger days, Wolfley competed in weight-lifting, sumo wrestling and professional boxing. He placed fifth in the World’s Strongest Man Competition back in 1981, and in 1985, he finished second in the first professional sumo wrestling tournament ever held in North America.

In 2002, Wolfley lost a four-round professional boxing match to Eric Esch, better known in the boxing ranks as Butterbean. Esch had 77 professional boxing wins, 58 by knockout, to his credit.

Wolfley also holds a black belt in the martial arts discipline of Jiu Jitsu.

“I’ve always enjoyed putting myself in competitive situations,” said Wolfley, who was the special guest at the 18th annual Mount Aloysius College Celebrity Scholarship Golf Tournament held Friday at the Summit Country Club. “I was never afraid to put myself in situations that made me uncomfortable, whether it was the Strongest Man Competition, sumo wrestling or professional boxing.

“I’ve always liked to compete, and I’ve always enjoyed that competitive aspect,” Wolfley said. “I even competed in a professional tug-of-war match up in Erie many years ago. That was crazy. It was a lot of fun.”

Having fun is something that Wolfley does regularly in his job on the Steelers Radio Network. He shares the broadcasts with his long-time pal and former Steelers teammate, Tunch Ilkin, and veteran play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove.

“Fourteen years sitting there on the sidelines watching my favorite team, the Steelers, playing my favorite sport, and hanging out with my best friend of 35 years, Tunch Ilkin, and eating free food and getting paid for it, what is there not to like?” laughed Wolfley, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. who played college football at Syracuse University and was a fifth-round NFL draft pick by the Steelers.

“It’s just a lot of fun watching the sport that you grew up loving,” added Wolfley, who played with the Steelers from the 1980 through 1989 seasons and finished his playing career by playing two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in 1990 and 1991. “Broadcasting is a lot of fun because I’m talking about something that is near and dear to my heart, the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Wolfley and his wife, Faith, live in suburban Pittsburgh and are the parents of five children. Wolfley also co-hosts a sports radio talk show with Ilkin on ESPN Radio 970.

“Tunch is like a brother to me,” said Wolfley, who played in 104 career games with the Steelers and Vikings. “God blessed me with 12 years in the National Football League, and I met a lot of great people and I had a lot of great experiences. I would have loved to have gotten a (Super Bowl) ring. Unfortunately, I missed out on that. But I have no regrets.”

Wolfley thinks that good things could be in store for the 2015 Steelers.

“Things look pretty exciting,” he said. “You might see a record-setting offense this year.”

Wolfley, who doesn’t play golf himself, nonetheless enjoyed being part of the Mount Aloysius festivities.

“The people in the Altoona area have always treated me well,” he said. “I’m just here to cheer everybody on, and be a part of a great event.”