EDITOR'S NOTE: I recognize that the following post reads like War and Peace (yes, it's a marathon). But I urge you to do your best to read the whole thing anyway. After all, I mean, we did talk to Amos Zereoue. Your cooperation in the matter is much appreciated in advance! Now let's get on with it!...that's what she said...If you watched this week's [Unnamed] Steelers Pregame Show, you'll remember how Tec and I rather weakly foreshadowed that we had some "awesome experience" last Thursday night. Well I believe the picture above is self-explanatory, but just for good measure - that experience was meeting and "interviewing" former Steelers RB, Amos Zereoue.
This all came about after a few weeks back I discovered the review of his restaurant, Zereoue, in Crain's New York Business. Not even had I posted the story and Tec had already fired off an email to the restaurant requesting an interview. Luckily for us, they obliged and we got our opportunity last Thursday.
Amos Zereoue is possibly one of the coolest dudes on this earth. But as you can imagine, with running his own restaurant and all, he's a pretty important and busy guy. Despite this, he found a good half hour to sit down with Tecmo and I to discuss everything from his days at West Virginia to his brief time in New England, and even a little about the Steelers current state of affairs.
I'm not going to lie to you, we were both pretty nervous going to meet Famous Amos. It wasn't really until Tec and I boarded the 6 train headed for 34th St. that I really started to feel it, though. And by the time we emerged from the Subway, I was honestly short of breath. Sure, that sounds pretty gay. Hell, maybe it is. But for me, not only meeting Amos Zereoue, but getting to speak to him candidly, was possibly the coolest thing I'd ever been privileged to do. When I started OFTOT approximately two years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought that someday it'd afford me an opportunity to sit next to Amos Zereoue and probe him about his former days in Pittsburgh.
We entered the bar around 6:10 or 6:15 after composing ourselves outside for a good 15 minutes. But still, my nerves were kind of running full speed (pun intended). When Tec told the guy at the bar we were there to talk to Amos, he said, "oh, you're the blogspot guys?," which I thought was pretty funny. We replied, "yeah," and he told us Amos would be there any minute. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a dark SUV rolled up with what seemed to be a truncated entourage inside and out came Amos Zereoue. He strided past us at the bar, and only catching a quick glance at his face, I wasn't sure if it was him. But it was, and soon enough he came over and introduced himself, shook our hands and told us to have a seat. I think this was the point where I may have pissed and/or shit myself. And let me just say, for the record, while I was a good five or six inches taller than him, his hands were proportionately the size of catchers mitts. I literally thought that as I stood there shaking his bear claw of a right hand.
Anyways, in true blogger fashion, we wanted to keep the "interview" informal and conversational. We had plans to record all of our question and answer, but in all of our excitement, that pretty much went right out the window and we probably both at once started to barrage Amos with questions. Unfortunately, though, having departed from our well thought out plan of preserving the conversation for posterity, I am only able to summarize Amos' responses to our many questions here. And to be honest with you, I can hardly remember what I did yesterday, let alone last Thursday night when we actually interviewed Amos. But I'll do my best, and you can read more over at PSaMP.
We started out talking about what it was like for him to get drafted by the Steelers after coming out of WVU. Amos said he thought to himself, "Why do they want me?," acknowledging to himself that the Steelers traditionally preferred the physical running game to the speed and finesse for which he was "famous" (pun also intended). But he said he loved the time he spent in Pittsburgh, and obviously it didn't work out so bad since he had a fair amount of success. I kind of hinted that maybe the combination of him and The Bus was a precursor to what is now commonplace in the NFL - the one-two punch of power and speed. As I remember he kind of tacitly agreed. But he probably didn't really care much either way, as he did his job regardless.
We then asked him about Hines Ward. Specifically, what he thought about the ever-popular assertion that Hines is a "dirty" player. Not even had we finished our question before he jumped right in and said it was bullshit (my words, not his). He expressed a great respect for Hines both on and off the field and said that it's important to distinguish between the two personas. The way I kind of parroted his response back to him was - when you're on the field, you've gotta get fired up and be ready to do what's needed of you to help your team win. You gotta compete as hard as you can. Amos echoed what many commentators and us Steelers homers have always said of Hines - that he's the best blocking receiver in the game. In fact, I seem to remember Amos thinking that Hines was one of only a few receivers left that even make a real effort to block. And he said, as a Running Back, he really appreciated that, knowing that when he made it to the second level, he had a guy out there who could and WOULD clear the way for him.
He also said Hines is just a very caring person. Not that this is anything new to us. But to hear it from a guy who had significantly more intimate contact with Hines just further legitimized it in my mind. And while we didn't really get into it, Amos seemed to insinuate that Plaxico Burress was actually a pretty good guy too. I found that rather interesting, given Plax's reputation and general public persona. But since Amos obviously knows him better than we do, and in light of some of the other astute observations he made, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Eventually we got on to the subject of how playing the one season he played in New England compared with his experience in Pittsburgh. He immediately explained to us that it was pretty different, adding that "Coach Belichick has a great football mind," or something to that effect. We didn't really press much further about that but just kind of agreed, and I mentioned that any Coach who can post a winning record in Cleveland's gotta know his stuff to a certain extent (I'm looking at you, Romeo Crennel).
As for the current state of affairs in Pittsburgh, Amos made two pretty on-point observations. The first was, and I recognize this isn't exactly novel, that the Steelers have a problem in the Offensive Line. As a former Running Back, clearly he knows a thing or two about the value of a good Offensive Line. And he talked about how the line the Steelers had back at the tail end of his time, basically the same one that was in place for the Steelers Super Bowl run, was perhaps a little underrated.
The second observation he made was about Anthony Smith. What was funny to me was that, while he really has no reason to follow the team anymore other than nostalgia, he knew about the legend of Anthony Smith and his mouth (of course, I guess unless you're living under a rock you know about this, but it was the context that made it interesting). Like the rest of us, Amos felt that if Smith really wants his chance, he'd be better off keeping his mouth shut and letting his effort do his talking. I brought up how Anthony Smith's biggest headlines since starting his career with a bang had been the victory "guarantee" last season and a couple of stories during the last two training camps about how he's maybe a little more physical with his own teammates than some of his Steelers brethren. Amos didn't really comment on that but the whole discussion evinced a feeling that he valued effort over talent.
As we wound down our conversation, and after we had thanked him gratuitously for spending the time with us, Amos told us to come back anytime. As owner/chef/host/general proprietor of the restaurant, he spends a fair amount of time there. So much so that at least one of the regulars we talked to at the bar knew him by name (and not because of his football career). And all I can say is - I hope he meant it. Because you can't say that kind of thing to two rabid Steelers fans/bloggers and get away with it. You better bet we'll be frequenting Zereoue as often as possible. I'm even thinking about setting up a weekly or bi-weekly happy hour there for Steelers fans in the NY area.
The restaurant itself had a great vibe. The front half was the bar, which included ample bar stools but also a couple of couches in the front, right next to the window (behind us in the picture above). And the back half was the dining room, separated from the bar by a draped curtain. The whole place just kind of exuded culture and it felt really welcoming. That could easily have been because we had just met AMOS EFFING ZEREOUE. But nevertheless, I'm looking forward to eventually getting back to sample some of the West African and French influenced cuisine.
All in all, I gotta say once again, this was easily the coolest thing I've done since I've lived here in the Manhattan area, and high up on the list of coolest things I've done all time. I want to thank Amos and the restaurant for being so awesome! If you are in the area, definitely check it out - on 37th St. between Madison and 5th Avenues (13 E. 37th St.).
Oh, and in case you've forgotten how fast Amos was, I'd urge you to watch these clips of him in HIGH SCHOOL! The dude had some jets for sure.
Here's a couple of other pics for good measure...