The first heart attack happened in April 2005.
Ed Brosky, 51 at the time, collapsed on the floor of a tavern. He hadn't been drinking. His friends gave him CPR and when the paramedics arrived, they shocked him with a defibrillator.
At the hospital he crashed again, received the Last Rites before coming back, but he stayed in a coma for 12 hours. He has no recollection of what happened before the heart attack.
His second heart attack came nine months later, at the Extreme Fitness gym, while he talked to some of his former players. He collapsed next to the treadmill. The same team of paramedics tended to him. This one he remembers.
In dreams after his first heart attack, Brosky, now 56, the creator and coach of the Pittsburgh Colts of the North American Football League, received instructions. He was told to do what his mother, Thomasine, wanted to do after his father passed away: open a restaurant.
"The good Lord saved me for something," he said. "I believed opening this restaurant was one [reason]."
That restaurant, coupled with his financial responsibilities with the Colts, has consumed every resource Brosky has. He pays for the Colts to rent a field, hire referee crews and other expenses when ticket sales can't cover it and player donations fall short.
It has never been easy, it has gotten him in financial trouble at times, but he's done it, running the football team for the past 31 years and the restaurant preparations for five.
Brosky has no cholesterol or blood pressure problems and keeps himself in good shape, so he's not exactly heart-attack prone. Except ...
"It probably had something to do with my 'type-A' personality," he said.
It makes sense for a coach and former player to be high-strung and intense, and Brosky fits the role. He was born and raised in Scott Township, played for Pitt's 1976 national championship team and played semi-pro ball after that. He started the Colts in 1979 and has played for or coached them ever since.
But he and the Colts struggle at times, especially with the decline in popularity of minor-league football. He settled a debt with the Moon Area School District in February regarding money he owed for field rental after two years of negotiations.
"Anything that happens with this team comes back on me," he said. "They had to do what was necessary for them from a legal standpoint to ensure they get paid.
"I'm a riverboat gambler. I rolled the dice and it didn't' come up 7 or 11. It came up snake-eyes."
He has gambling again with the restaurant, which he will call Thomasine's Place in honor of his mother. His father, who died in 1981, wanted to open a restaurant. His mother wanted to use the money he left to open one in his honor, but Brosky talked his mother out of it. Now he owns the building that will house the restaurant and has a liquor license, but could not pull it all together in the past.
"One of the reasons I kept falling behind is to keep this team on the field," he said.
His players and coaches understand that commitment to them and try to repay him with their play.
"Eddie always provided for us," said assistant coach Rob Modero, a former Colts player who is the linebackers coach at Central Catholic High School. "We always had tape, ice. He took a lot of money out of his own pocket."
"He'll do anything to make sure his team plays the season and gets through the season," 11-year veteran linebacker Wade Brown said. "A lot of people look at that as a negative, but I look at it as a positive because I'm on this team."
Brosky's quest to keep the team running led him to one of his best players. While searching for a practice space in a sportsplex in Grove City, he came across Clinton Alexander, an employee of the facility. Alexander, a former wide receiver at California University of Pennsylvania, asked for and received a tryout and started making the hour-long commute down Interstate 79 for practice twice a week.
"He welcomed me with open arms," Alexander said. "He literally puts everything he has into it. We try to portray that on the field as well as with our conduct."
Brosky had another dream after his heart attack, this one of him running and falling over and over.
"And that's the way this journey has been," he said.
"It's been something that I believe was one of the reasons why I was allowed to live. I'm on this journey to complete that part of the mission that I was sent back to do."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1724.