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Steelers Grieving son says he will play Friday

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Garrett Webster wears No. 52 for the Moon High School football team. It's the same number his father, Mike, wore for 15 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Garrett intends to put on his jersey Friday night and play against Ambridge. He will grieve, but he will play. He believes it's what his father would have wanted.

Mike Webster, former Steelers great and NFL Hall of Famer, died yesterday of complications after a heart attack Sunday.

"I know if he would've had last words, he would've told me to play," said Garrett, a behemoth 6-foot-9, 340-pound senior offensive lineman. "I know he'd tell me there would be no way that I would not play."

Garrett Webster was by his father's side when he died in Allegheny General Hospital. Garrett plans to wear an armband or patch in memory of his father.

"The hospital put him in an induced coma so he didn't have to go out in any pain," Garrett said. "I was able to be with him and whisper stuff in his ear. I knew he understood what I was saying because I could feel him squeezing my hand a little."

Garrett moved from Madison, Wis., two years ago and moved in with his father. He left behind two sisters and his mother in Madison. He also has a brother in the Marines.

Garrett helped to take care of his father as his health deteriorated in recent years. He called his dad his best friend.

"It was sort of like he was a father to me, but I was a father to him, too, because I tried to take care of him," Garrett said. "The last couple of years, we were pretty much the only friends both of us had. Everywhere I went, I went with him."

Garrett and his father went out for dinner Saturday night . Mike Webster became ill Sunday morning and was taken to Sewickley Valley Hospital Sunday night. Garrett rode in an ambulance with his father when he was transferred to AGH Monday.

"The last real conversation we had was Saturday night. It's funny because it was about football," Garrett said. "He was telling me to make sure my first two steps after the snap have to be the quickest. He told me to make sure I intimidate and dominate. It's weird that was our last conversation. Looking back, it was almost like something out of the movies."

Yesterday, Garrett was trying to be a family spokesman, forced to be mature beyond his years.

Young Webster reacted to his father's death with a mixture of sorrow and relief.

"I thought my whole world would come crashing down when he died. I felt that way my whole life," Garrett said. "But I remember when he passed away, I wasn't even crying because I knew he was all right. It was almost as if this weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew he wouldn't feel bad any more. He'd be OK. And I knew that guy upstairs had Johnny U, Bob Hayes and my dad all together."

Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.

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