Ed O’Neill Got Cut By the Pittsburgh Steelers

And it’s haunted his dreams for decades
Ed O’Neill Got Cut By the Pittsburgh Steelers

Long before Ed O’Neill made us laugh on Modern Family or Married… With Children, he was a pretty badass football player, good enough to earn a scholarship to Ohio University and get a penalty for putting the smackdown on Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. The Pittsburgh Steelers thought he had enough potential to bring him in as an undrafted free agent. 

“I got cut in 1969, my rookie year,” O’Neill told Seth Meyers this week. The sitcom star made it two weeks into training camp before getting the axe. “I did okay. My problem was I was out trying to play outside linebacker, and I never played the position. So I was trying to make the team and learn the position at the same time, which is not recommended.”

But O’Neill’s football dreams lived on for decades — in his actual dreams. He told Meyers that he was 23 years old when the Steelers cut him from the squad. “Every year since then, I would have a recurring dream, like at least once a year,” he explained. “And the dream would be I was on the sidelines in Latrobe (Pennsylvania) at Saint Vincent’s College, where the training camp is, in uniform. But now I’m 24. It was a year later. And the coach would say, ‘You’re going in on the next series.’ I’d say, ‘Okay, coach.’ I got another shot. I’d go in. And then I would wake up.”

That was the first instance of a recurring dream that would haunt O’Neill for most of his adult life. The scenario would repeat in his sleep year after year, with the only difference being O’Neill was his current age whenever the dream would revisit. “So when you’re 50,” said Meyers, “you’re 50 on the sidelines?” Yep.

This repetition continued until a new version of the dream popped up. “I was on the sideline, same scenario. ‘You’re going in. You’re going to be fine.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, coach, you know I’m 77 years old.’ And he said, ‘You’ll be fine.’ And I said, ‘I think I’m done.’ And I never had the dream again.”

Dashed football dreams were one thing O’Neill had in common with his Married character Al Bundy. The beleaguered Bundy often reminisced about his days as a star fullback at Polk High School, repeating the tale of how he scored four touchdowns in a single game. But his scholarship offer was yoinked after he broke his leg trying to win an ill-conceived wager. It was young Peg who bet Al he couldn’t jump over a moving car like she’d seen a pro do on TV, according to Married… With Children vs. The World

“I was two inches short, Peg,” Al remembered. “If my toe had just cleared the driver’s nose, I would’ve won that $10. And that fight with Jack. And played college ball. And married a debutante. And been rich and happy.”

“But things worked out just great anyway. I have no complaints,” Al claimed, looking at Peg with a heavy sigh. “Oh God.”


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