An achilles injury erased his entire 2010 season. A torn tricep muscle in Week 1 of 2011 made for another season-ending injury. In 2012, 7th year man Willie Colon is back (and healthy) with a new job description: Left Guard.
A 4th-Round draft pick out of Hofstra in 2006, Colon lags only the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks, as well as fellow linemen Max Starks and Trai Essex for offensive seniority.
On Thursday, after the team's first training camp practice, I had a chance to catch up with Colon for a little Q & A:
Does it feel like your 7th training camp?
"I feel all a bit of seven [training camps]. I'm blessed, man, with all I've been through to still be here. I never take it for granted. Mike Tomlin, my coach, believed in me. To be here and have a chance to compete and be on a championship caliber team, can't beat it. I've got a lot of anger built up [laughs]. No, I'm excited. The potential is there. We're working hard. We've just got to make sure it happens."
Are you and Trai Essex the old-guy leaders of the O-Line now?
"Me and Trai were walking the halls when we reported, and we saw so many young guys , I was like 'Geez.' I never thought we'd be at this position where we were considered the old goats of the team. It's weird, but it's a blessing man. I appreciate it to be here, to be in Latrobe, PA and still competing, rockin' and rollin' and laughin,' still getting bed checks at 29-years old. It's pretty funny."
Are you in the prime of your career at age 29?
"I would say, yeah, without a doubt. I feel like I've got great years ahead of me, I've got a lot of payback, I'm checking my lists. I've got a big checklist this year. I'm definitely going huntin' this year."
Have you embraced being a left guard, running that signature Steelers pulling-guard run?
"We run 36-Power a lot. Whatever my job is, I don't look forward to any single play. If 36-Power is the call, I'm just going hit whatever is looking the opposite of me. Going inside is my whole game. I can just kind of bounce around and be the hunter. I like it so far."
Do you know your new position enough to be able to help the new left tackles?
"I think a little bit, we're kind of helping each other. But at the same time, I know how to prepare as a professional. I know what it takes to be ready on gameday, and whoever is next to me I know they'll be ready, too."
How much technique work do you have to do at camp?
"It's all technique, you can't be an offensive lineman without good mechanics and technique. That's our whole day, that's the only thing we do out here is work on technique. Other guys get to run around and look pretty. We're back in the corner, working on footsteps and hitting pads. That's our job, man, I wouldn't want it any other way. You learn to love it at a very young age. And if you don't love it, you won't make it."
How was your summer?
"I had a great time, I was able to travel a little bit, I went to a couple weddings, I went to Ramon Foster's wedding, tore it up for him. Had a good time. Trained really hard, two-a-days, running, lifting. A lot of young guys came out and worked out with me, so it was a good offseason."
All these team weddings with Foster, Woodley, Roethlisberger, are you next?
"They can bite [the bullet] all they want, I'm not jumping on that train. I haven't found her yet [laughs]. If I find it, then I'll tell you. Right now, I'm living the good life. All-American best friend right now."