Wolf in Upper St. Clair

By Wayne Herrod

Yes, there is a “wolf” in Upper St. Clair. But don’t be alarmed! This wolf is the popular, talented, and humorous Craig Wolfley. “Wolf,” as he is fondly known, decided many years ago to make USC his home despite growing up in Buffalo, New York. With his wife, Faith, Craig has lived in Upper St. Clair for 23 years. They have six children and six grandchildren.

“Faith has been great for me. She loved me when I was unlovable. I shudder to think what my life would be like without her,” said Craig. “I’d always intended to move back to Buffalo when my football career was over. But, I fell in love with Pittsburgh and met Faith, who’s from here. Suddenly, USC became home. It’s a nice community of folks,” he said.

Steelers’ #73, Craig Wolfley

Craig was drafted in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980 after he ended his college football career at Syracuse University. He was selected to the All-Century Syracuse Football team, along with Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Larry Csonka. Craig played for the Steelers from 1980 to 1989. From 1981 to 1988, he started in 98 consecutive games. Craig finished his football career playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 1990 and 1991.

“My lifelong dream since I was seven was to play professional football. Spending 12 years as a pro football player were the greatest years of my life. I almost had a tug-of-war with the postmaster on the day I mailed in my retirement papers. I have so many memories of my career. One of the best (and earliest) is that I bloodied Chuck Knoll’s lip during a pass rush drill at a draft workout at Syracuse when he came to work me out.” Despite that blip of an incident, Craig had a long and successful career with Pittsburgh. For his excellence, Craig was selected in 2000 by the fans to the Steelers’ All Century Team. “Being selected was obviously the first Y2K glitch of the new millennium,” he said jokingly. To this day, Craig remains a Steeler. He is a member of the Steelers broadcast team and also hosts a radio show on ESPN with his best friend and former linemate, Tunch Ilkin.

“Tunch persuaded me to try my hand at broadcasting; he eventually won out,” said Craig. “I love the sidelines. I love the high voltage intensity and testosterone, and the blood, sweat, and tears that flow on the sidelines. Between my career and broadcasting, I’ve spent more than 30 years on or near the field. My current career keeps me close to a game I’ve loved all my life.”

During the broadcasts, Craig adds insightful commentary and spices it up with his legendary sense of humor. For game calling, he developed his own language called “Wolfisms,” where terms like “holding” become “habbeus grabbus” and a hard hit is “slobberknockers” or “deceleration trauma.”

“My goal is to take the listener where he can’t go, give the Tomlin view from behind the facemask, and share the excitement of Steelers football with our great Steeler Nation fans,” said Craig. Craig’s broadcasting career eventually led him to another career. Craig conducts motivational speaking engagements and personal appearances, does T.V. and radio commercials, and performs martial arts and weight lifting demonstrations. He was recently the keynote speaker at the NFL Hall of Fame Veterans Day event. There, Craig made clear his passion about the military. “Just look at the sacrifice and dedication of the men and women of the armed forces. They are willing to separate themselves from their families for long periods of time. We owe them an incredible debt of gratitude. When I shake the hand of a man or woman who has served, I am humbled. And when I shake the hand of someone who served in combat, I feel diminished because they have faced perils and served a far greater cause than I ever will,” said Craig.

Craig has another passion that is very important to him. With its mission to help the homeless and needy, Craig is deeply involved in the Light of Life Mission on Pittsburgh’s Northside. Over the years, Craig and Tunch have spent countless hours involved with this organization. “Tunch started helping out in the ’80s. He encouraged me to come down and get involved. At first I was reluctant, knowing that I was already involved in various other charities and thinking it was “just one more.” Tunch told me to come to the organization’s site and go through a set of doors… and that it would change my worldview forever. He was right.

“I went down and served food on one cold, rainy Thanksgiving Day. A homeless family (mother, father, and two children no older than eight) came in. It broke my heart to see them, but made me feel good to help them. To the homeless, Light of Life is the hands and the feet of Jesus. Families are transformed and shattered lives blossom,” said Craig.

Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, circa 2014

In addition to spending lots of time at the mission, Tunch and Wolf host an annual charity Memorial Day weekend walk on Pittsburgh’s Northside. “This year’s walk was the 17th year of a very successful event that raises lots of money for the cause. The many supporters and volunteers are the true heroes,” said Craig. Craig talked about his relationship with Tunch. “What can I say about Tunch? He’s my best friend. We were drafted together in 1980 and were roommates in camp and on the road together for almost the entire decade I spent with the Steelers. My mom thinks of Tunch as one of her own. I believe that God put us together for a reason, as brothers from different mothers.”

Tunch shared his thoughts about Craig. “Craig is my brother, my best friend. We’ve been dear friends for 40 years. I remember that he came to my defense when a large fight broke out on the field during a game early in our careers. From that moment forward, I knew Craig would always have my back. He’s never let me down. Craig is quite funny and creative. In our broadcast segments, I am the straight man who sets Craig up for his humorous insights. He is the malaprop king of sports broadcasting!”

Craig is a passionate, caring, sincere, and religious man. He evokes love in everything he does. Craig summed up his life by saying “Most of my life is about following hard after Jesus. Wherever God’s spirit is moving (as Tunch likes to say) is where I want to be.”

Craig Wolfley’s decision to remain in Upper St. Clair is our community’s gain and Buffalo’s loss. Craig, we’re happy you’re here to stay! 

The broadcasting and playing photos are the courtesy of Talent Network, Inc.

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