Roy Jefferson: The NFL's Foot Prints in the Sand

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Roy Jefferson:  The NFL's Foot Prints in the Sand

Willie was the hard hitting safety, punt return man and spark that dominated the NFL in the 60s.  After a brilliant NFL career he was finally inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989.

Willie's teammates’ Hall of Fame player Willie Davis and Tom Brown were in attendance.  Davis now a successful businessman traveled all the way from California to be there.

They were joined by former Redskin players Rickie Harris, Lonnie Sanders, and Roy Jefferson who were there to show their love and respect.

Friends and family came from every corner of DC and beyond to honor a great athlete who beat the odds.

Willie Wood was born and raised in Washington, DC and is one of the greatest all around athletes to ever come out of the DC Public school system.

He was the MVP on the first integrated DC Public High School All-Star football team that beat an undefeated all white Catholic League team St. John’s 13-7 in 1954.

The game was played at old Griffith Stadium several months after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in the public schools of America (Brown vs Board of Education).

Willie literally beat the odds when he graduated from Armstrong High School and decided to travel west to take his education and athletic skills to the next level.

First stop was Compton Junior College and the next stop was the University of Southern California.  It was here he became the first black quarterback in the Conference’s history.  He later became a walk-on to win a roster spot on the Green Bay Packers, the rest is NFL history.

During his playing career at 5’11 and 160 pounds he became one of the most feared tacklers in the NFL.  Willie and the great Night Train Lane of the St. Louis Cardinals were the measuring sticks for hard hitting defensive backs during that era.

Those punishing hard hits that he gave and took are now forgotten by this proud athlete.  The vicious hits led to brain damage now known as dementia.

Willie is not alone there are hundreds of other NFL players who have suffered the same fate.  The NFL has been in denial for much too long that the violent world of pro football is responsible for the condition now found in their former players.

There was another interesting NFL story in attendance, Roy Jefferson.

In a conversation with Roy the following day he mentioned the great turnout and that the people had made him feel like he was a "Rock Star."  The love they showered on him had caught him completely off guard.  Fans wanted his autograph and wanted to have their pictures taken with him.

The love was "REAL" during his NFL career he played an integral role in the community.  He was always hands on and his love for the DC community and its people was unconditional.  There were never any strings attached.

He hails from Compton, California and was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year in his senior year at the University of Utah.

Roy was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1965.  He excelled as wide receiver, ran back punts and kickoffs and saw some duty as a defensive back. He is definitely one of the great all-around athletes to ever play in the NFL.

It is rumored that he and head Coach Chuck Noll could not stay on the same page even though Roy led the NFL in receiving yards in 1968.  His 58 receptions and 11 touchdowns tied him for second in the league for the season.

In 1969 he had 67 receptions for 1, 079 yards and nine touchdowns making him the first Steelers’ receiver to lead the team in back to back 1,000 yard seasons.

His reward, he was traded to the Baltimore Colts in 1970 and led them to Super Bowl V.  The next year he moved thirty miles south to the Washington Redskins for the 1971 season. 

In Washington he joined Coach George Allen and his “Over the Hill Gang” where he would end his twelve year career in 1976.

His great play and deeds are unappreciated thanks to his rebellious stands against coaches and management.  He never played it safe or sat on the fence you always knew where he stood.

Thanks to Roy Jefferson’s early efforts and generosity, Kids In Trouble was able to reach out and touch thousands of needy elementary school children.

He and teammate linebacker Harold McLinton aka Santa Claus brought smiles to the faces of children that were often priceless.

It was Roy who suggested that we involve the entire DC metropolitan area in the annual toy party.

This was all done without grants or loans, Roy and Harold spend their own money for toys and food.  This was before the million dollar contracts and upfront bonus dollars that now run into the millions and millions.

Dave, Roy and Willie were the pioneers when it came to "Pro Athlete’s involvement in the Community."

The NBA “We Care” concept started here in DC with Dave Bing (NBA) in 1967 and Willie Wood (NFL) in 1968.  There were no other pro athletes doing what they were doing in the 70s.

It was unheard of for community programs to have pro athletes, entertainers, judges, law enforcement, print, radio, and television personalities working as "One" to improve the plight of inner-city children.

What other NFL, NBA, or MLB teams were having annual Celebrity fashion shows, tennis tournaments while raising funds to send kids to camp and college?

In 1971 KIT opened and established the first Half-Way House ever on a military installation at Bolling Air Force Base.  It was Roy Jefferson, Larry Brown, Harold McLinton, and Ted Vactor who were there to support the concept.

The first ever made for television NFL Community promo was taped by CBS at the Kids In Trouble Hillcrest Children's Center Saturday Program in NW Washington, DC.

The promo showed NFL MVP running back Larry Brown and linebacker Harold McLinton teaching water safety to inner-city children in the center’s swimming pool.

I remember in 1970 when Roy and I were trying to find tutors and mentors for the Saturday Program. 

We first tried contacting the black colleges in DC, Howard University, and DC Teacher's College for student volunteers, but no one would volunteer! 

Roy and I met with Dr. Nicholas Long the Executive Director of Hillcrest Children's Center (affiliate of Children's Hospital).  He suggested we contact a Seven Day Adventist High School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

We worked out the details and every Saturday for three years we bussed in a group of all white students.  The yellow school bus pulling up to the curb at the center on Saturday mornings caused a stir from the very beginning.

This was a first, blacks were aware of black students being bussed into white communities to attend school but white students being bussed into an all black community was not a familiar sight.

The center was located in the heart of the inner-city at 14th and W Streets NW.  The residents had never seen so many whites in their community at one time.

The parents finally brought into the concept of the children being tutor by white children.  They started to show up on Saturdays with lunch for the tutors (fried chicken, potato salad, greens, hot bread, baked cakes, and cookies).  The soul food menu was a big hit with the tutors. 

The students even started to bring baked cakes and cookies for the children, they really spoiled them rotten.

When the summer tutoring session had ended the tutors had become a part of the fabric of the black community.

Student tutoring and volunteer programs are now implemented in education institutions around America. 

The students from the Seven Day Adventist Church in Tacoma Park started the trend which has now become a National trend.

Students are now given credit grades for volunteering in the community. 

Those credits are used to help qualify them to enter college and further volunteer work can be use to help them graduate.  

There were other pro athletes and community personalities who followed Dave, Willie, and Roy’s lead.  They included, Red Auerbach, Johnny Sample, Earl Monroe, Lenny Moore, Dave Robinson, Petey Greene, John Thompson, Adrian Dantley, etc.

Roy Jefferson was the first pro athlete to have his own television show and reading program here in DC. 

The television and reading programs were established with the community in mind.  He was the only pro athlete who had his wife (Candi) and children regularly involved in the Kids In Trouble programs.  

During one fundraiser for flood victims in North Carolina he brought his mother out to participate.  His type of community loyalty has become a lost art.

When the summer tutoring session had ended the tutors had become a part of the fabric of the black community.

Student tutoring and volunteer programs are now implemented in education institutions around America. 

The students from the Seven Day Adventist Church in Tacoma Park started the trend which has now become a National trend.

Students are now given credit grades for volunteering in the community. 

Those credits are used to help qualify them to enter college and further volunteer work can be use to help them graduate.  

There were other pro athletes and community personalities who followed Dave, Willie, and Roy’s lead.  They included, Red Auerbach, Johnny Sample, Earl Monroe, Lenny Moore, Dave Robinson, Petey Greene, John Thompson, Adrian Dantley, etc.

Roy Jefferson was the first pro athlete to have his own television show and reading program here in DC. 

The television and reading programs were established with the community in mind.  He was the only pro athlete who had his wife (Candi) and children regularly involved in the Kids In Trouble programs.  

During one fundraiser for flood victims in North Carolina he brought his mother out to participate.  His type of community loyalty has become a lost art.

The list of personalities who benefited from Dave Bing, Willie Wood, and Roy Jefferson’s unselfishness acts before their 15 minutes of fame read like a Who's Who:

Bill Raspberry / Washington Post (Pulitzer Prize)

John Thompson  (Georgetown University)

Sugar Ray Leonard (Boxing)

Aaron Pryor (Boxing)

Dave Jacobs (Boxing)

James Brown  (CBS)

Omar Tyree (Author, Fly Girls)

Chris Thomas (Comedian)

Cathy Hughes / Radio & TV One

Michael Wilbon / Washington Post

Dave Dupree / Washington Post

Dave Aldridge / Washington Post

Adrian Branch / ESPN

Adrian Dantley / NBA Hall of Fame

Glenn Harris / TV 8 Sports

Butch McAdams / Radio One Sports

Jamie Foster Brown / Publisher Sister Two Sister Magazine

Jair Lynch / Olympic Gymnist (Silver Medal)

Tim Baylor / NFL Baltimore Colts

Bobby Gardner / NFL St. Louis Cardinals

With the exception of comedian Chris Thomas and Butch McAdams, they have all forgotten!

You can also add established personalities like Boxing Promoter Don King, NFL Legend Jim Brown, and NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd to the list who benefited and have also come down with early stages amnesia (lost of memory).

Roy brought a smile to my face when he said, “I ran into Cathy Hughes of Radio and TV One and I reminded her of our association back in the day with Kids In Trouble and she acted like she had dementia!” 

I wonder how she thinks she met Larry Brown and Earl Monroe on the football field and basketball court.  Cathy Hughes has selected memory lost when it comes to how she made it in DC.

The last time I saw Roy we were together at a fundraiser for the Girls and Boys Clubs at the Langston Golf Course in DC.  He was reminiscing about his career and said, “Harold Bell and I were joined at the hip back in the day.” 

The love that took place at the picnic in honor of Willie Wood and showered on to Roy Jefferson was love that had a memory and had not forgotten.

 

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