Ben Roethlisberger's public persona isn't limited to game days. The Steelers QB is a pitchman for Nike and a local car dealership—and his image adorns the bottle of his custom barbecue sauce. Which leaves Big Ben conflicted. Does his high profile give fans an invitation into his life? And if there's a line that shouldn't be crossed, where is it? With no easy answers, Roethlisberger, 26, is one of a growing number of players who uses bodyguards when going out. He says that, much like in a collapsing pocket, you sometimes can't tell what's coming until it's too late.
The one time I was scared the most, I didn't have anybody with me. I don't want to relive all the details, but this guy brandished a weapon in my face. I kept my cool and talked my way out of it. People showed up and helped get rid of the guy. That's when I decided to have someone with me all the time.
Early on, my teammates were like, "Who does that rookie think he is?" Now guys are like, "Man, that was one of the smartest things you've ever done." And some of those same guys have actually gotten security people themselves. Having a bodyguard doesn't make you weak. I'm sure 99% of the guys in the NFL could take care of themselves in a fight. The issue is protecting yourself and what you have: your name, health, money. You're trying to save your life.
I do go to the younger, higher-profile guys on the team and just talk to them and tell them to be careful and to be smart. I keep my circle of friends real tight and real close and I don't just let anybody in.
You might go a whole lifetime and not encounter one thing. Or you may encounter 10 things in one weekend. You never know. Security doesn't mean a guy holding your hand as you're walking through a crowd. They're just there to keep an eye out. You've gotta interact with people. You have to shake hands, say hello, take pictures. You can't always be watching what people are doing behind you, and there's been more than one occasion when I was grateful to have a guy with me. Depending on the setting, you get guys who
just get really gutsy when they get a couple of drinks in them.
There's something about this that's so sad.