Yocca doesn't regret decision to make trade with NFL star
Cody Yocca is a rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Throughout the 2012 season, he has ridden the roller coaster of highs and lows, including the exhilarating victories at Baltimore and Cincinnati as well as the disheartening losses at Cleveland and at home against San Diego last Sunday.
A couple of weeks ago, when the Ravens came to town for a Sunday night game, the Plum resident and 2011 Plum High School graduate made a trade he didn't think twice about, but it drew some interesting responses when the story spread both locally and nationally.
After Baltimore's 13-10 victory over the Steelers that night at Heinz Field, Yocca was standing in Section 124 – next to where the Ravens entered and exited the field – with about a 100 other fans, and Ravens star running back Ray Rice came over to make a proposition.
“He came over and asked if someone could throw him a Terrible Towel in exchange for his gloves,” Yocca said.
“No one was budging. I was like, ‘Hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why not?'”
Yocca, who golfed and also played football and baseball at Plum, said some of the fans around him weren't too happy.
“I can't mention all the things they told me, but some told me to burn (the gloves) or throw them back or step on them.
“But others told me I did the right thing, with a couple of people suggesting I could get some money for them down the road. I think it would be cool to keep them and maybe sell them down the road if he keeps on playing the way he is and gets in the hall of fame. But I never really thought it would've taken off like it did.”
A photo posted on the Ravens' website and on other national sites showed Rice wearing the Terrible Towel on his head as he entered the locker room, and Rice drew criticism for doing that from many in Steeler Nation, including Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
In a story on the Raven's website, Woodley warned Rice on Twitter about disrespecting the Towel, and he referenced what happened when other players .such as Cincinnati's T.J. Housh and Tennessee's Lendale White did the same thing.
In the same story, Rice defended the trade and putting the Towel on his head.
“You think about it as where I'm at in my career; you cherish these rivalries, cherish the moments,” he said.
“I apologize for those who see it as disrespect. For me, I thought it was a pretty cool gesture exchanging my gloves with the fan and walking out with it.”
Rice went on to make sure people know he respects the Steelers fans, the organization and the tough rivalry developed between the Ravens and Steelers over the past decade.
“A couple of my buddies tweeted me and had one of the pictures on it,” Yocca said.
“They asked me, ‘I wonder who did this?' They tweeted all the Steelers players, sent that photo and tagged my name. They said it was me that did that and it was my Terrible Towel. That was pretty wild.”
Yocca said the reaction on Twitter was mixed.
“As expected, I got some hatred towards the fact I did that,” he said. “They called me a jag off and a traitor and told me I shouldn't be a part of Steeler Nation. It didn't bother me too much. Others, like the fans at the stadium, said they would've done the same thing. (Rice) could be a hall of famer some day and it was cool that I got the opportunity to do that.”
Yocca said he reached out to Rice on Twitter, and Rice responded with kind words.
“It was pretty cool for him to respond back like that,” Yocca said.
Yocca said he isn't sure if Rice wearing the Terrible Towel will be a curse on Rice or the team, but the Ravens did lose to the Steelers in Baltimore on Dec. 2 and then suffered an overtime loss to Washington on Sunday.
“I've always respected Ray Rice as a player,” Yocca said. “It's not like he's just any old player on the Ravens. He's one of the top running backs in the NFL. But having the chance to kind of meet him and learn a little bit more about him, I respect him more as a person, too.
“On (Rice's) side, he said he's going to keep the Towel and tell his kids of the rivalry. And down the road, I can tell my kids about the rivalry and how I got a great player's gloves.”
The issue was discussed on the Nov. 29 afternoon drive show “Seibel Starkey and Miller” on 93.7 The Fan.
“They interviewed Ray Rice about the whole situation beforehand,” Yocca said. “I was sitting upstairs watching some TV, and my dad told me about it and told me to call in. I thought it was a good idea and wanted to see where it goes. ”
Yocca said his cell phone and Twitter came alive after the interview.
“I wanted to let everyone know that I was the one who did it, and I didn't want to hide away from that,” he said.
“I had read an article about it, and at the end, the writer said the one question that was still unanswered was who was the fan who did this? The fact I got it out there and ended any speculation was pretty cool.
“I also wanted to let everyone know I will always be a huge Steelers fan. I hate the Ravens, but I respect one of their players.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.