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Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has become a NY kind of guy

The CBS football analyst calls himself a “full-fledged” New Yorker.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher has embraced living in New York City since he unofficially retired from coaching.  Cowher took a stroll through Central Park with Newsday reporter Neil Best on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017. (Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

The accent still says Pittsburgh. The coaching resume still says Pittsburgh. The chin still says Pittsburgh.

But ask Bill Cowher where he comes from and the words say something else — much to his own surprise.

“I’m a full-fledged New Yorker,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say that. That’s something I never thought I would say. People ask me where I’m from and I go, ‘New York City.’ [They say], ‘Are you?’ ‘Yup, I am.’ ”

This was early on a recent afternoon as the western Pennsylvania native, former Steelers coach and current CBS analyst approached his apartment building on East 64th Street after an outdoor lunch and stroll in Central Park.

The sun was shining, leaves were turning, tourists were teeming. And if ever someone embodied The New Yorker by adoption that E.B. White described in a 1948 essay, it is Cowher.

“Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness,” White famously wrote. “Natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

Cowher’s passion grew when he settled here in 2010, shortly after his wife, Kaye, died of cancer and around the time his three daughters were growing up and out of the house.

He already was working Sundays at CBS and commuting to his home in North Carolina. So he rented a place, found himself spending more time there, met the woman who would become his second wife, bought an apartment in 2012, got remarried in 2014, and here we are.

“The more I was up here, given everything, it was kind of like a new start, a fresh start,” he said. “It was a place with all these people; I was embracing that. It has all these little places you can go and kind of be yourself. That was what I probably needed at the time.”

At 60, he might not need it any longer, but he wants it, and does not see that changing. Why should it?

His wife, Veronica, a musician known professionally as Queen V, is a New York-area native — and a big Jets fan. One of his daughters (and one of his three grandchildren) lives in Brooklyn.

He does not worry about parking. His car is in North Carolina.

He likes his job at CBS and said it is “highly unlikely” he will coach again, 12 years after the last of his 15 seasons with the Steelers.

And he likes being just another face in the crowd, embracing the “obscurity.”

Over 90 minutes, one grilled cheese sandwich lunch (with lemonade) and four miles of walking, he was approached only twice, by middle-aged men who called him “Coach.”

“I walk over here quite frequently, and when you walk into the park, it’s another country,” he said. “There’s such a great mix of people. Periodically you’ll run into somebody who speaks English.”

Not that he minds being recognized by the few passers-by who can spell “Roethlisberger.” He is far more comfortable with it than he was in the Pittsburgh fishbowl, where his daughters once asked him not to join them at the mall for fear of the hassles that would ensue.

“It hit home,” he said. “I said, wow, that’s where I’m at. That was one of the things I always will remember. It was nothing negative. It was just a reality of where I was. But I’m very normal. Normality is very important to me.

“For me, now, the being recognized part of it, it’s for what you’ve done. It’s for the past. It’s not now. So that in itself is very flattering, and it’s great. It’s a positive thing.”

Veronica said 99.9 percent of Bill’s interaction with the public is positive. “There’s a lot of quote-unquote man love, as I call it, but the lady fans appreciate him too, and I get it and I back it, obviously,” she said. “I think he’s the greatest in my eyes.”

And then there is the city itself. Cowher and Veronica, whom he calls “V,” take full advantage, including theater, concerts, restaurants, biking and simple pleasures such as the view west from their 36th-floor apartment.

“I think Central Park is one of the great wonders of the world,” he said, sitting outside the boathouse. “You think about the people, the foresight they had, to leave this undeveloped in the middle of one of the most developed cities in the world. It’s so unique, so special.”

As he strolled, the park at times seemed almost too scenic to be true, as if someone had set it all up for a movie shoot — a saxophone player, a political protester, a child climbing on the Balto statue.

“You never know what you’re going to run into,” Cowher said, smiling the smile of an unjaded relative newcomer.

Veronica grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. She said showing Bill around has helped her rediscover the city of her own youth and made her appreciate it all the more.

“It is interesting to see it through someone else’s eyes,” she said. “When you grow up around it, you take a lot of things for granted.”

Cowher, whose mother and two brothers still live in the Pittsburgh area, seems to have found a sweet spot as a guy famous for his intensity, mellowed by age and a saner lifestyle.

“I think that’s probably helped him fit in so well into New York City; you still have to have a certain amount of intensity to live here,” Veronica said. “I think finding the balance is what’s key to everything, even though none of us hardly ever find it. But we’re always striving to.”

On Thursday, Cowher will be at The Cutting Room in Manhattan, where Veronica will headline a concert and party to celebrate the launch of her new album, “Bridges Vol. 2,” which is due out the following day.

Let’s just say it is not the sort of scene Cowher likely imagined for himself while growing up in suburban Pittsburgh. But that was then. This is now, and he hopes it will be forever.

“When I first came up here, I couldn’t get out of here fast enough, to be honest with you, because it was too fast and it felt too cluttery, just too many people in a small space,” he said.

“Once you get to know the city and get acclimated to the people, it’s a really neat place and offers so much to do. The vibrancy in itself, you feel it. To me, it’s home.”

RETURN TO COACHING

IS “HIGHLY UNLIKELY”

Bill Cowher’s name has come up frequently among NFL teams in need of a head coach, but with every year that passes, it seems more improbable that he will jump back into the fray — not when he is enjoying his post-coaching life this much.

“Highly unlikely,” said Cowher, 60, who spent 15 seasons as coach of the Steelers before leaving after the 2006 season and eventually moving to Manhattan, where he works as a studio analyst for CBS.

“I’ve got, as you can see, a life I’m very happy in, and a job I’m very blessed to be able to experience — the platform itself, and I love the people I work with, I love the people I work for and I love the job I have in covering the sport that I’ve known all my life.

“At the same time, while doing that, it does give me time in the offseason to do things I never could do before. I have a grandson who lives in the city, my daughter is here. So we’re spending a lot of time with them.

“There’s balance in my life here that I’ve never had before, and that’s pretty special . . . I never say never about things, but it’s highly unlikely that I will coach again. I did it at a time, and I never looked back. I have no regrets whatsoever. I feel very good about that.”

— NEIL BEST

COWHER’S WIFE: MUSICIAN, HOPEFUL JETS FAN

Bill Cowher’s wife, Veronica, a musician known professionally as Queen V, has a successful career of her own and has a new album due out Nov. 17 called “Bridges Vol. 2.”

But it is a bonus for their relationship that she can relate to Cowher’s job as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports, because she is a lifelong Jets fan who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey.

“Put it this way: On Sunday I was in my jersey with the Jets helmet on the table and all the paraphernalia, hoping to change the juju,” she said after the Jets’ Oct. 29 loss to the Falcons.

Veronica often travels with Bill to Thursday night games, which has been an education in itself.

“I will say that I have come to learn a lot about the league and so I’ve become a fan of the league as a whole,” she said.

Cowher said he has warned Veronica that most of the time he will pick against the Jets on the air. Being around her has helped him appreciate the mindset of an avid fan.

“She calls it ‘we’ and ‘us,’ ” he said. “It’s ‘we did this, we did that.’ . . . I’m talking to a true fan. She’s become very much more knowledgeable about the game. She loves football; I love music. That’s where it all kind of came together for the two of us.”

The Jets’ better-than-expected performance has made for happier Sunday evenings at home.

“She’s been scarred a little bit the last few years, so the expectation has kind of been lowered,” Bill said. “But I think she’s very excited about this year because of everything that’s taken place. It’s very encouraging.”

Said Veronica, “There’s hope.”

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