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Holiday Reading: Gift ideas for sports fans

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Two books centered on the Steelers will make great gift ideas this winter: Ron Lippock's "Steelers Takeaways" and Tunch Ilkin's "Forged in Steel" are must-reads for local sports fans

If you or someone you love is a sports fan and likes to read, you're in luck. Rob Lippock's "Steelers Takeaways" is full of memories, while former Steelers lineman Tunch Ilkin has written a book with sage advice for the competitive arena, the workplace and the home.

Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades
Relishing in more than 400 interviews with former Pittsburgh Steelers football players, Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades is a book unlike any other. Author Ron Lippock not only gives readers personal perspectives from the players, but an inside look at the NFL organization.

“Ron Lippock has collected an amazing number of outstanding comments from some of the top NFL players," according to former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell. "The comments are extraordinarily candid, informative, some emotional and often very detailed.”

Lippock’s work spans across seven decades worth of personal and on-field stories from Steelers who played in the 1950s to those who just recently retired. The conglomeration of recollections pours from the memories of household names like L.C. Greenwood and Rocky Bleier to those who fought to simply make the practice squad.

“It gives readers in inside look into what goes through a player’s mind as he confronts the challenges of making an NFL roster,” Blue River Press publisher Tom Doherty said. “Steelers fans will enjoy it even more because many of the stories cover experiences that the fans got to witness as the players experienced the event.”

For Lippock, the excitement came from learning about players and how the game changed across different eras. To do so, he took on the extraordinary task of interviewing hundreds of NFL players. His biggest motivation, however, was to show Steelers players as more than images on TV or as fantasy football statistics. Players delve into their families, personal lives, issues, health concerns, career adjustments, racial adversities and religious concerns –- just like everyone else.

“People often don’t see and treat players as people,” Lippock said. “They sometimes dehumanize them – as figures in a fantasy football pool. Images on a screen. And social media makes it easier than ever to reach out and treat players with little thought.”

Lippock brings these players to life within the pages of his book as Steelers players reveal the physical turmoil of the game, the pressure of fighting for a spot on the roster, the anxiety of transferring teams and of course, the constant scrutiny from the media.

Although Lippock had his own personal reasons for publishing the book, he also composed it for anyone who is a Steelers fan.

“I did it differently than most," Lippock said. "I broke down the best of over 400 interviews by topics like religion, humor, race, business side of the game, mentoring and coaching and more so readers can get quick and poignant takeaways.”

Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades gives readers a different side of the athletes they spend so much time watching. Lippock concentrates on personal experiences and insights with his sources, making these stories full of humor, adversity and memories.

Forged in Steel
It is not too often people find a NFL football team based around core values. Values that engross every part of the team – every practice, every game, every player and every coach.

More often than not, teams in the NFL are driven to conquer no matter the process or consequences of doing so.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are no different -- or are they? Former Steelers offensive lineman Tunch Ilkin reveals the core of the Steelers to be based around seven values of leadership, something that makes this franchise different from the rest.

"Forged in Steel captures the essence of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Tony Quatrini, director of marketing for the team.

Ilkin, with assists from leadership authority Damian Williams and publisher Mark Miner, tap into the truths behind the Steelers’ ethics. The book relays the idea of fortifying community, organization and family leaders in coherence with the Steelers’ mindset.

“In my view,” Miner said, “there’s no book like it, and it has the power to transform lives, careers and organizations by the time-tested values of a six-time Super Bowl champion team. My own personal values have been enhanced in many ways.”

For any leader to be “forged in steel”, the authors discuss seven values that hone in on the true standards of the football team from Steel City. The seven principles can be broken down into brief definitions.

Inspiring Standards: Identifying and living one’s values establishes trust with those he/she leads.

Contagious Humility: Humility becomes contagious in one’s team, resulting in greater interdependence and teamwork.

Servant Leadership: One lives to serve and add value to others, the only type of leadership that will bring out the best in others and consistently outperform other leadership styles.

Strategic Team Making: One’s team has a plan for success and is crystal clear about it.

Passionate Execution: One’s team cares deeply about the game plan and will go the extra mile to execute it.

Continuous Improvement: One is willing to pay the price for excellence, will improve every day and never settle for mediocrity.

Mental Toughness: When things get hard, one has integrity to choose the right attitude in every situation and demonstrates the ability to bounce back.

The book aims to influence people from different communities, organizations and lines of work. The authors took ideas from the Pittsburgh Steelers and applied them to the everyday lives of people, including those outside the NFL.

“The book helped me better understand that failure is a great recipe for success because it provides us with the necessary skills to not only succeed but more importantly to exceed our own limitations," said Robert Morris director of student support and community outreach programs Chester Delon Thompson.

Forged in Steel is a condensed book from hundreds of pages of transcripts from several Heinz Field conferences that Williams and Ilkin.

“Unlike other books about successful coaches and athletes,” Miner said, “this is the first book anywhere looking at the values of organizational leadership through the prism of a National Football League team from its owners on down the chain of command.”

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