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Steelers' Mendenhall candid about life, past and present

Rookie Rashard Mendenhall, the first running back selected by the Steelers in the first round of the NFL Draft in 19 years, sat down for a chat with the Trib's John Harris:

Q: What is the ideal number of carries for you to get in a game• How many is too many?

A: I'll take 10 with 150 yards -- 15 yards a carry. The least carries with the most yards. Not really (too many carries). Whatever the game permits.

Q: Three traits you'd love to borrow from other running backs?

A: The speed of 'Fast' Willie (Parker). LaDainian Tomlinson's feet. Brian Westbrook's elusiveness.

Q: On May 5, 2008, while walking in Chicago, you were robbed at gunpoint. Fortunately, you were not hurt. What did you learn from that incident?

A: I don't really think about it too much. I think that in itself, that was just a learning experience. You've got to be more conscious of where you are being in the NFL now. People don't see you as the same, so you've got to be conscious of what's going on.

Q: What criticism about you is most unfair?

A: I don't really trip on media criticism. The people around me, that's the thing I pay attention to and keep track of. Your coaches and players, what they say about you, that means something.

Q: You are not a big fan of (Illinois coach) Ron Zook. Why?

A: I don't have anything against him. That was just my experience in college. I don't have any problems with him.

Q: Your first two years at Illinois you didn't start. You thought about transferring but your brother, Walter, helped influence you to stay. What did he say, and are you glad you stayed?

A: I didn't think about transferring. I was at a point where I wasn't sure if I wanted to play or not. It wasn't like I couldn't handle anything, but with all the stuff that was going on, I felt like if this is what football is, I don't want to have a part of it, I don't want this to be my life if this is what it is.

Q: Walter then transferred to Illinois State from Illinois• Did you agree with his decision?

A: He was kind of pushed into it, but I thought he made a good decision.

Q: What was it like to reach the Rose Bowl?

A: It was cool. To be in California for a week with your teammates, everything like that, it was a fun time.

Q: What was recruiting like•

A: I didn't really go through too much of a recruiting process. I committed to Illinois before my junior season.

Q: What was your proudest moment as an athlete?

A: Probably in track at an indoor state meet my junior year in high school. They invited the top 12 guys in every event. I was there for the 50 and the 200, and I was slated at No. 12 in both of them. I won both of them, and I got MVP of the meet.

Q: What was your most bitter defeat?

A: My junior year in high school, our football team lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Q: You played high school basketball. If you concentrated only on basketball, how far would you have gone?

A: As far as high school basketball, that's about it. I wasn't going anywhere after that.

Q: Most annoying thing is?

A: People who aren't honest or straightforward.

Q: What was you most humbling experience?

A: It was in high school -- the first time I pulled my hamstring my junior year. Up until that point, I was the man. From my sophomore to junior year, I never lost a 100-yard race until that day. As soon as that happened, the next meet this guy on our team ran a fast time, and everybody completely forgot about me. After all I did, people completely forgot about me. From then on, I was like all this is short-lived. Whatever I do today, as soon as it's gone, it's not going to be like that. So that's been my attitude.

Q: Boyhood idol?

A: I didn't really have an idol coming up. Probably my brother.

Q: Best Christmas present?

A: Everybody had those little army men, the green and brown ones. I had the planes and tanks with it, that whole set-up.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Terry Crews -- he played Damon on 'Friday After Next.' I'd go to dinner with him and the creator of the Boondocks cartoon (Aaron McGruder). And probably Corinne Bailey Rae (English singer, songwriter and guitarist).

Q: Favorite new song?

A: That's tough. I listen to mostly older songs.

Q: Favorite old song?

A: Anything by the the Isley Brothers.

Q: Favorite book?

A: I just finished a book I really like -- Raising Fences by Michael Datcher. That was a real cool book. I write, and a lot of the book was poetry. Just the poetic feel of it.

Q: You have to move to a new house and buy all new stuff. What three things from your old house would you want to bring?

A: My PlayStation 3. My notebook where I write. And my CD collection. I write a lot of things. I write poems, the spoken word, I write songs. That's what I do outside of here is just relax.

Q: If you could get God to answer one question, what would it be?

A: Is he going to let me in heaven.

Q: Something people are surprised to learn about you?

A: My nature outside of football. I'm real chilled as far as writing, reading. I love learning, conversation, picking up anything I don't know. That's what I'm into.

Q: What question would you like to ask the media?

A: Do they ever feel bad about the stuff they say and write that they know isn't right?

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