Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Nov 2005

Steve Courson Dies in Freak Accident

Former Bucs and Steelers lineman Steve Courson, best known for becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids, died Thursday when a tree he was cutting fell on him. He was 50. Courson was using a chain saw to cut down a dead 44-foot tall tree with a circumference of 5 feet when it fell on him.

Courson estimated that about half of his fellow NFL players used steroids. After he retired he experienced serious heart problems that he linked to his steroid use, but he also said he thinks steroids are dangerous mostly because athletes use them in extremely high, unmonitored dosages. I wrote about Courson in a chapter of Will Carroll's book, The Juice.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 10 Nov 2005

23 comments, Last at 08 May 2010, 10:20pm by john meyer


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 9:54pm

That is way too damned young. I once saw a neighbor drop an old dead oak tree on his truck, totaling it, and recall thinking that it wasn't a task best left to the inexperienced.

I hope Mr. Courson's kids are grown, not that adult children don't suffer greatly in these circumstances.

by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 12:41am

who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids

That "acknowledging" stuff can be dangerous.

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:01am

Jesus, what is with everyone and snarky pedantry as of recent? It has gotten intolerable. I mean, a guy dies tragically and Israel needs to point out Smith’s improper syntax? Good grief.

by Sergio (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 3:18am

I missed the improper syntax!

Yes, I weep of shame at nights...

by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 3:42am

John, I certainly wasn't criticising Courson. Writers are fair game when they mess up, no matter what the subject is.

BTW, you should see how some of the genealogy sites make fun of the odd epitaphs that show up on tombstones.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:00am

Wow, AWESOME comeback, Iz. That genealogy point really put that one to bed! :)

by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 8:42am

"Smith’s improper syntax"

Actually, there was nothing improper about my syntax. I didn't write the linked article, so anyone criticizing its grammar is criticizing the AP writer, not me.

by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 12:28pm

who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids

That “acknowledging� stuff can be dangerous.

Post hoc non ergo propter hoc, Izzy.

by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 12:45pm

TomC is correct, of course. Now let's get back to talking about Courson, steroids, or anything remotely relevant to the article.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:07pm

Jesus, what is with everyone and snarky pedantry as of recent?

Have you seen the crap stirred up by the Falcons fans this week?

by Daniel Warehall (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:48pm


Who in the hell are you? (j/k)

But seriously, as an idiot who almost got crushed by a tree about half that size, I half to agree with #1. It looks a lot easier to control where the tree will fall, than it actually is...

by Duane (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:57pm

Will (#1), The only thing more dangerous than an inexperienced guy with a chainsaw is a bunch of guys with chainsaws. This past summer I wanted to turn away when no fewer than a half dozen guys showed up at the church across the street with chainsaws to fell a dead maple. You can probably imagine it: One guy "takes charge" and just starts cutting low limbs, another starts gesturing at higher limbs, then they have a lively discussion and all take turns pointing up at the tree. Of course, I couldn't turn away, and they eventually successfully dropped it (into the middle of the street), but it sure made me thankful I hired someone to remove my dead elms.

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 2:19pm

I just hope this incident will shed light on the dangers of cutting down your own Christmas tree this winter. Plastic trees have been around for decades, and people, they can save lives.

by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 2:37pm

re: #11 -

I don't know, but I think he's French.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 4:06pm

How fast does a tree that size fall? Seems to me you would be able to have enough time to see which direction it's falling, and move out of the way.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:30pm

Hey, wasn't there an "EXTRA POINT" here a little while ago about an NFL team moving to Los Angeles? Where did it go?

by Isaac Newton (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:54pm

Richie (#15): Everything falls at the same rate: 9.81 m/s^2.

But it's not exactly free fall: it's anchored, and sort of rotates... a larger tree will therefore "fall" more slowly due to the fact that the moment of inertia is a 'more than linear' multiple of height.

Sit under an apple tree, you may, too, be inspired... ;)

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 6:06pm

Yes, I understand everything falls at the same rate. (Although that only applies in a vacuum.)

But I would think that when you cut the tree, it doesn't instantly fall over. Once you cut far enough through, it will start tipping, and when it does that, MOVE!

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 8:11pm

I learned about Courson's death this morning, in an email from my former newspaper.

As some of you know, I got to know Steve pretty well, and wrote an article about what I thought was pretty courageous testimony before Congress on the dangers of steroids.

He truly regretted ever taking the drugs -- not simply because they boosted his performance, but because doing so sent an evil message to a generation of kids who wanted to, someday, play in the NFL.

I thought his quiet but forceful testimony about the toll of steroids, the widespread and unregulated use of the controlled substances throughout the NFL, and the continuing shame that brought to American professional football was the perfect antithesis to the panel of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil baseball icons.

Steve was a truly nice man, and his candor and commitment to remaking himself and the game he loved will be his final epitaph.

I hope so, anyway.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 8:13pm

On a personal note, I should add that Steve always talked about his dogs, whenever he chatted with you.

In some ways, he felt as if the world of celebrity was a crutch, and he loved the dogs for their unwavering loyalty and fidelity.

I think he's a happier man in heaven, realizing that his pup survived.

He really was a good man.

by cliff (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 9:21pm

I recently met Steve Courson in the Uniontown mall where he was walking laps around the mall. I spoke to Steve, and he stopped and talked to me as if I was someone he has known for awhile (not the complete stranger that I was). From that brief meeting I was very impressed with him and his character. Not many former or current pro athletes would take the time to talk to a stranger let alone acknowledge someone they didn't even know. Being a huge Steeler fan this was a great experience for me to meet and talk to him and it is something I will always remember. My thoughts and prayers are with Steve's family and friends.

by john meyer (not verified) :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 9:24pm

Steve Courson was my favorite football player in 1979. I admired his strength, and athleticism as a member of "The Steel Curtain" team. I watched "The Strongest man in Fooftball', in 1979, where Steve did 14 reps. on the bench with 405 lbs.

His candor as a man who admitted his "Steroid Use" was unhealthy,was the truth at the time not on just on NFL teams, but even in Bally's by amateur lifters who wanted to be in the "400 lb. bench press club".

I am also a huge Steeler fan going back to the Chuck Knoll years. I think Steve should be recognized for his courage, and a man that straightened himself out, saved his dog,in an act of courage,and gave his own life because of it.

by john meyer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/08/2010 - 10:20pm

I have read articles on about every Pro athlete who has used steroids to enhance their athletic performance. Very few came out the closet, and shared their personal experience. Once such man was Steve Courson. He was someone who felt like he had a responsibility to express the dangers, and negative affects of these drugs.

I think people should give Steve credit for the valor that he had to come out and let people know about his anabolic drug abuse. He should he remembered as a "Hero", not a squealer who ratted on anyone in the NFL.

His concern was with young people, and their false interpretation as "Steroids" being a positive thing without the knowledge of "Side Effects", and long term damage from their use. I doff my Pittsburgh Steeler cap to that man.