Ballet plays a role in Steve McLendon's rise

CINCINNATI -- The sheepish grin isn’t the result of a 300-plus pound behemoth talking about ballet, and his devotion to it. On the contrary it is because the name of the college professor who got Steve McLendon into ballet escapes the Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle.

“I’m not too good with names,” McLendon said, “but I can tell you one thing: I thank her for making me stay in the class. It helped my body a lot.”

McLendon signed up for a ballet class during the second semester of his junior year at Troy. He needed a couple of credits to fill out his schedule, and he got more out of the class than he could have ever imagined.

He can thank his professor for that.

“She told me ‘Just because you’re a football player don’t think I’m just going to give you a grade,’ ” McLendon recalled.

McLendon took the same professor’s jazz class that semester. Twice a week, he spent two hours performing ballet and then jazz.

He stuck with the ballet, and McLendon credits it with his staying relatively injury-free his senior season at Troy. He said it has also helped him rise from undrafted free agent to the successor to five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton at nose tackle.

ESPN dispatched columnist Rick Reilly and producer Kris Schwartz to Pittsburgh to flesh out the story and look at the juxtaposition of a blue-collar city and the art that became associated with its beloved Steelers in the 1970s thanks to Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann.

The McLendon piece will air prior to the Steelers-Bengals game on “Monday Night Countdown.” Find more on the story here.