No More Joy Ride for Ex-NFLer Niehaus : Seahawks' First Draft Choice in 1976 Drives a Soft Drink Truck

Associated Press

Steve Niehaus, the first No. 1 draft choice in the history of the Seattle Seahawks, is driving a soft drink truck for a living these days.

The former defensive lineman from Notre Dame admits it can be uncomfortable talking about his occupation.

"I'm embarrassed sometimes, when people ask how come I drive a truck," he said.

Niehaus, 31, played with the Seahawks for three seasons--from 1976 through 1978--after he was the National Football League club's top draft pick in their first college draft in 1976.

He was traded to Minnesota, where he played in 1979. He returned here to live after his NFL career was over.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder left professional football with an ailing shoulder and some bitterness.

"People still say, 'He used to play for the Seahawks,' and I have that," he said.

Niehaus says he played with a sore shoulder for most of his NFL career. He says his shoulder required surgery after the 1976 season and he never was the same after that.

"In practice, I would get hit, drop and start shaking," he recalled. "Guys would look the other way while the trainer would hold me on the ground until I stopped.

"But I had to play. They didn't give me a choice and I didn't know any better."

When his pro career was finally over, Niehaus says he was glad.

"To tell you the truth, when I quit, I was relieved," he said. "The pressure was off. To have to put up with all that stuff for three years, just trying to hold on."

He joined with four other former Seahawks in a lawsuit against the NFL club over alleged medical misconduct. The suit is pending.

He says he completed his degree at Notre Dame after his career was over but has had trouble finding the right job.

"I wanted to get into sporting goods," he said. "I applied everywhere for jobs. I offered to work the floor, selling shoes. What does it take to sell stuff on the floor? It didn't matter. Nobody wanted me."

For six months after completing his college education, he says he didn't have a job.

"I was depressed, and finally realized there's a lot of guys with degrees out there," he said. "I realized football had just taken five years out of my life, and I was that far behind everyone. I wasn't worth a chance."

He says he finally took a job selling cars in Seattle but the car dealership folded. Then he says he worked in construction.

For the past 4 1/2 years, he has worked for the Alpac Corp. driving a 7-Up truck. He carts around 500 to 600 cases of soft drinks daily from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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