PITTSBURGH — JuJu Smith-Schuster can remember his late receivers coach every time he checks his left wrist.
The Pro Bowl receiver addressed the death of Drake for the first time Wednesday, and he displayed the wristbands he made in his honor.
Drake was preparing for his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers before his death on Aug. 11.
“Usually he says a quote to us every day, and the last quote he said to us was, ‘never choose good when great is available,'” said Smith-Schuster as he read from one of two black-and-gold wristbands. “And obviously that means don’t settle for less, don’t be satisfied with what you have now. When great is out there, go achieve it. He will always be in memory of not only this team, but in my heart to everybody he touched.”
Smith-Schuster plans to make wristbands for his receivers. The other read ‘Shut Out the Noise,’ a message the receivers displayed on black hoodies before Saturday’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, courtesy of veteran Donte Moncrief.
Emotions were raw last week as players processed the death. The Steelers canceled two practices and hired grief counselors. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he grew closer with Drake over 18 months than he had with many people he’s known his whole life. Added receiver Ryan Switzer: “I’m a better man, I’m a better husband, I’m a better son, I’m a better friend, I’m a better teammate because of coach Drake and because of the things that he taught me.”
Rookie Diontae Johnson plans to dedicate every touchdown of his career to the coach he got to know well during the draft process.
Smith-Schuster wishes he could share more stories about Drake, but some team experiences are sacred. “He always told us what happens in the (receiver) room stays in the room,” said Smith-Schuster with a smile.