It all started with Big Ben

From Rinatta Signorini at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

080217There was a time when Julie Gurnick was shy and quiet.

“She used to hide behind my legs,” said her mother, Irene Gurnick. “She wouldn’t talk or anything.”

And then she saw Ben Roethlisberger.

She hasn’t stopped talking since.

It’s been a whole team love affair that started in 2004 after Julie Gurnick’s parents took her to her first Steelers training camp practice at St. Vincent College in Unity. Since then, the Jeannette woman, 21, has amassed about 400 photographs with players — including quarterback Roethlisberger — and has created almost a science of getting autographs.

She has two large three-ring binders — but she needs bigger ones — packed full of 8-by-10 photographs of her smiling next to players at training camp, games and area stores. The pictures — the majority of them are signed — are organized by the players’ jersey numbers so she can easily flip to a page and tell a story. She can spout off what college that player attended, his position and make a good guess as to his height and weight.

“When I was 8, I didn’t know anything about sports,” said the 2014 Jeannette City High School graduate.

Gurnick has photographs with every player on last year’s roster except for former quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was released by the team in May.

“As of right now, the only people I need pictures with are the rookies … and the first-year guys for the Steelers,” she said. “In the last three years, I’ve only missed three days of camp.”

Watch out, rookie linebacker T.J. Watt, you’re at the top of Gurnick’s list.

That has netted her signed jerseys, footballs, helmets and gloves from numerous players. She strategically planned her outfits for the first couple days of camp — a free safety Mike Mitchell T-shirt on Friday and her punter Jordan Berry jersey on Saturday.

But Roethlisberger is still No. 1.

“Me and Ben literally grew up going to Steelers camp together,” she said. “Literally, football is my life because of Ben. Just because he showed up for work that day.”

You can read the rest here.

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