LATROBE, Pa. — Maybe Markus Wheaton had lost a bet. Or maybe he just wanted to stay dry from the steady rain that soaked Saint Vincent College all Sunday long. Or maybe it was pure symbolism, a statement that he was ready to compete.
Whatever the case, the kid would not take off his helmet.
Chin-strap snapped up and all.
“Eh, I don’t know. It’s OK. I’m just leaving it on,” Wheaton was telling me nearly an hour after practice and, yes, the helmet stayed on through the whole interview.
It was all quite the sight, and not just Wheaton in isolation. This was one of those Mike Tomlin practices that punished as much as it reinforced. It was physical. It was a mental test, one drill added right after the previous had seemed like the last. It went 33 minutes longer than the two hours allotted and, when the final horn finally sounded, players were dragging, limping off the field. Most didn’t detour a single step in climbing the big hill up to the cafeteria to devour their dinners.