45-year-old Meadville Senior High School alumnus Randy Fichtner is the receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Spending half the year in Mesa, Ariz., Lynda Lloyd is in the fortunate position to dodge those nasty Meadville winters. And with the way this winter has gone, that’s been no small blessing.

However, this season in particular has caused a degree of turmoil for the Tool City transplant, even way out in Arizona.

Lloyd is a Pittsburgh Steelers die-hard. At least, she has been since her son, Randy Fichtner, was hired as the Steelers wide receivers coach two years ago. And yet there she is — deep in the heart of Cardinal Country.

Usually that’s not such a big deal. But with the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers getting set to face off in tonight’s Super Bowl, Lloyd’s been feeling the heat. And it’s not all coming from the desert sun.

“Can you imagine the harassment I’m getting,” asked Lloyd. “I play tennis with these people and they’re all wearing red and there I am in my black and gold.”

Fortunately for Lloyd, she didn’t have to put up with it for too long. This week she traded the sunny climes of Arizona for the sunny-and-slightly-humid climes of central Florida where she’ll be in attendance for what will arguably be the biggest night in her son’s coaching career.

“Oh my gosh, I have been packed for a week now,” said Lloyd. And this was back on Tuesday.

“As soon as we won (the AFC championship game) I went right to the computer and got the tickets to Florida. There was no way I was going to miss this.”

The game is in Tampa Bay. About an

hour east of Tampa, in the town of Lake Wales, lives Lloyd’s daughter, and Randy’s sister, Tonya Laderer, with her husband John — a former standout swimmer at Meadville High — and their six kids.

On this spot, the Fichtner clan has converged from all over the country. Lloyd came in from Arizona. Randy’s father, Ross Fichtner, is in from Michigan, along with his son Daniel. Rustin Fichtner, Randy’s brother, came in from Colorado. And Tammy Resch, Randy’s other sister, made the trip south from Ohio.

And they all brought spouses and they all brought kids.

“I think total there are 19 in the house, and there will be 20 by Sunday,” said Tonya, who says she’s enjoying all that company.

“I love hectic and I love family,” she said. “It’s like a family reunion. Our family is so close and it’s been so much fun — reminiscing and catching up and making all those inside jokes that only families can make.”

Only a few of the folks who made the trip will actually be attending the game. Most of them will watch it at Laderer’s house and then (they hope) join Randy — who is staying elsewhere — at the post-game celebration.

This isn’t the first time that a big game has been a family affair for the Fichtners.

The 1989 Rose Bowl pitted the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California. On one side was Randy, an assistant coach at USC. On the other was Rustin, who was a linebacker for Michigan.

“That was a great day,” said Ross Fichtner. “Of course, I knew one of them was going to be unhappy and one would be elated.”

Michigan won that game, beating the previously undefeated Trojans 22-14. That meant Rustin got the congratulations while Randy got the condolences.

Fortunately, Ross is well-versed in the highs and lows of the game of football. He played nine seasons in the NFL during the 1960s. A defensive back, he spent eight of those years with the Cleveland Browns.

Asked if there were any conflicting allegiances with his son wearing black-and-gold, Ross said, “None at all. Blood is thicker than water. As long as my son is coaching for Pittsburgh, I’m a Steelers fan.”

When his playing days came to an end, Ross spent nine seasons as an assistant coach in the NFL, coaching with the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.

Given his background in the sport, Ross has a unique perspective on Randy’s career. That is, when he can actually see what’s going on.

“We were at the last two games at Pittsburgh,” said Ross. “We were sitting in the club lounge but we couldn’t see anything. Every time there was a big play people would jump up and start waving those towels around.”

Ross says that he noticed early on that Randy had a head for the game.

“When he was younger, he was a very cerebral player,” said Ross. “He knew a lot about the game. He knew how the game worked. He had a knowledge that a lot of kids don’t have.”

Randy’s playing days at the University of Purdue were cut short by injury. But he stayed with the program, helping out the team’s coaches. At the same time he was finishing off college in three-and-a-half years while staying on the school’s dean’s list.

“When he finished, he called and said that he wanted to go into coaching,” Ross remembers. “I said, ‘You graduate on the dean’s list and you want to go into coaching?!’

“I told him, ‘You can’t be that smart.’ ”

Randy Fichtner went on to spend the next two decades plus coaching at the college level.

And finally, two years ago, he gave his mom a call.

“He said, ‘Mom, you’re never going to believe where I am,’ ” recalled Lloyd. “He said, ‘I’m on a plane to Pittsburgh.’ I thought his grandmother was dying or something. But he said, ‘I’m going to be the wide receivers coach for the Steelers.’ ”

“I said, ‘You’re kidding me. You’re going for the interview?’ He said, “No I got it already.’ ”

“Well, I almost fainted.”

Lloyd’s son, a journeyman for more than 20 years, was at last heading homeward. He would be coaching a pro football team right in Lloyd’s back yard. If she wanted to see her son at work, it was right down the road.

Of course, then that team went and made it to the Super Bowl, which meant she had to pack her bags and hit the road once more.

But considering the circumstances, she’s OK with that.

“I’m going to party all weekend,” said Lloyd. “This is really a big deal. I have to pinch myself every day. The Super Bowl! It is really unbelievable.”

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