When an NFL player retires, he often misses the camaraderie of his football buddies. Some would call it "social dislocation."
For several years, I have been doing research to discover what happened to several NFL players who are senior citizens. I am writing a proposal for the development of a center for retired NFL players and others who could have been in the NFL but injuries prohibited the fulfillment of their dreams. Some of these men reside in the Golden Triangle, in Texas.
One mayor in the Golden Triangle in Texas tagged it as the Professional Football Capital of the World. There was a time when a number of young men were drafted into pro football. They attended high school in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, Texas.
Three coaches from the Golden Triangle area are Clifton Ozen, Willie Ray Smith and Alexander Durley. These men had the knack for developing outstanding, disciplined athletes at the high school, college and professional levels.
I have heard of several stories. One is shocking to me. A former athlete lives in the woods near Port Arthur, Texas. He is the brother of a successful, retired NFL player.
One article in the Beaumont Enterprise says of the man, "He is estranged from his famous, younger brother, Bubba Smith, who lives in Los Angeles."
It said, "the brothers have not spoken in years".
This man, who most folks call Beaver, had aspirations for a career in professional football cut short by injuries. Beaver was a friend to Gale Sayers, who visited Beaumont, Texas, with Beaver years ago.
Beaver is somewhat "socially dislocated" but he claims all is well in his life. He, according to the article, "has not seen or spoken to his son, Sekou, or daughter Jamilla, both grown, in years, but he knows they are all right."
A second example is a former Oakland Raider named Eldridge Dickey. Dickey was drafted as the first African American quarterback. He was disappointed because he never had a chance to function as an NFL quarterback, although he had a stint as one of Oakland's wide receivers.
Dickey carried the memory of his hindered dream heavily on his shoulders—perhaps causing him heartbreak—to the end of his life. He passed away in the Medical Center in Houston several years ago.
Three things stick out in the first stages of my research:
1. Some men grieve because they never get to have professional football careers.
2. Some men have a career in professional football, but it gets truncated by social, legal or other problems.
3. Others have a career, but injuries force them off the playing field.
Examples are provided of senior citizens who were aspiring to play professional football. These retired or injured players' careers were cut short. In fact, some of these senior players have not had a lucrative life after football.
A proposal for the Center for "wholeness and wellness" is being written. The plan is to have a facility for both residential and on-site activities, including counseling and life coaching.
Another gentleman I researched did something honorable in the 60s. He took his bonus from an NFL team and gave most of it to his parents to help them purchase a new home.
Life is filled with "swift transitions." The man who loved his family enough to share his bonus later encountered some rather severe medical and social problems. Although he has benefits, he does not manage his own assets to date.
This man has undergone a transformative experience. He is the "Humpty Dumpty" trying to put his life back together again after falling off the wall of prosperity and celebrity.
The floor plan for the Center will be similar to the floor plan of the home this NFL player helped purchase for his family. Hard times stripped the family of their means to keep up the taxes on their home.
Eventually, the county took possession of the home. As the story goes, in past years this great man would get depressed and would find a comfortable place under a tree on the property that once belonged to him and his family.
On Nov. 3, 2009, I purchased that same property at 2728 Goliad Street, in Southeast, Texas.
As part of the Jubilee Year (50th year) for the Oakland Raiders, this restorative act is one of agape love, the love of God for a man who has had a life filled with ups and downs.
Although I am writing the proposal for the development of the project, my advisory board and I will select an administrative team to assist in the process of building a center at 2728 Goliad. This center will be for both residential, recreational, and reformative activities.
Today, I met a young architect who will design the center. Jamal will take a rough draft of the design that a former Oakland Raider will provide, and enhance and design the center around the ideas of the retired Oakland Raider. The plan for the Center will be reminiscent of the orignal home, but larger with an athletic atmosphere.
Is this project achievable? Yes, it is.
There are times in our lives when we know what we must do. Then, it seems the forces all around us, help us, putting the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
When I went to bid on the property at 2728 Goliad, I hoped and prayed no one would bid higher. I won it. I was as happy as a little girl on Christmas morning.
When I announced to my class I had purchased the property, I opened an email from a developer. I read the email aloud and discovered in the front row of my earliest mathematics class was a young architect who is willing to help me draw up plans for the project.
Finally, in the golden years of some of our beloved retired NFL players—some of whom were outstanding with the Oakland Raiders—it is our hope to build this center in the Golden Triangle.
It will be dedicated to the generation of NFL players who were active during the time of the merger between the AFL and the NFL, which was negotiated by Al Davis, and it became a reality for all of us to enjoy.
It will demonstrate the agape love we have for the contributions these men made in the lives of their fans. It will be a visible tribute of respect, honor, and recognition for the men who contributed to the building of the NFL.
Those who are the current NFL players have stood on the shoulders of great men who came before them.
And, as one song says, "No man is an island, no man stands alone."
The labor and sweat of the earlier generation of NFL players is the foundation on which the current NFL players now stand.
Some of these senior NFL players have given much, and therefore, we must find ways of giving back to them.
Note: Jamal, the architect is pictured below.