“I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing who I saw. Thinking about the lifestyle decisions I was making, that wasn’t me. It was something that hit me hard like a ton of bricks. It was a wake-up call. I’m glad I woke up.”
~ Ben Roethlisberger
by Carson Abrir
Ben Roethlisberger, 28, better known to NFL fans as “Big Ben,” has ten days before returning to the turf to take on the winner of Sunday’s AFC wildcard game between the New York Jets (11-5) and Indianapolis Colts (10-6). The Super Bowl champion quarterback isn’t confirming he’s engaged to Ashley Harlan, but according to reports in The Huffington Post and Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Harlan’s family says the two are a serious item.
If Roethlisberger, the star athlete from Findlay, Ohio, is planning to get married, it’s a good bet his father, Ken, was the first to know.
Ken Roethlisberger has been the anchor of his son’s life for nearly all of it. Ken and Ida Roethlisberger divorced when Ben was just two. Unusual at the time, Ida gave up custody so Ben could live with his father. When Ben was just 8, he was waiting in the driveway for a weekend visit with his mother when he learned she had been critically injured in a crash with a pick-up truck on her way to see him. She was just 34 years old when she died, leaving Ben’s stepmother, Brenda, to step in as a full-time mother ever since.
Shortly after the funeral for Ida, her mother, Fran Foust, found a journal in which Ben’s mom had stored reflections about her young son. “He’s going to be a great ballplayer someday,” said one of the entries as his mom marveled over little Ben’s ability to palm a softball at such a young age.
While Roethlisberger quickly took to athletics as a channel for his energy, emotions, and passions, his behaviors off the field have included several high-profile incidents, including a nearly fatal motorcycle accident in 2006 and a four-game suspension at the start of the 2010 NFL season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
In October, the 12-4 Steelers quarterback spoke to ESPN’s Merril Hoge about returning to the field after his suspension.
“I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing who I saw,” Roethlisberger said. “Thinking about the lifestyle decisions I was making, that wasn’t me. It was something that hit me hard like a ton of bricks. It was a wake-up call. I’m glad I woke up.”
Roethlisberger said one of the most difficult conversations about the incident that led to his suspension was with his father. “I told my dad that it wasn’t me – everything that was going on – and he started crying. He said he was afraid to say anything because he was afraid I’d just turn him off and not welcome him into my life anymore. That hit me that my dad, one of my best friends, would say that to me.”
It’s been a year of important lessons for Ben Roethlisberger. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the decision to settle down, for the time being, he’s likely focused on doing what it takes to lead his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6th, a month before his 29th birthday.
Time and again Big Ben has proven he has what it takes to succeed on the field. The wake up call he shared with Merril Hoge may mean this is the year Ben Roethlisberger proves he has what it takes to succeed off the field as well.