A Throwback Legend Passes; Upshaw Able To Transcend Stereotpyes

Glenn Franco SimmonsAnalyst IAugust 21, 2008

With the passing of legendary Oakland Raider guard Gene Upshaw at an age that seems too young, the NFL has lost a great man who was able to transcend stereotypes that set the odds -- in the business world -- against black men and athletes from becoming businesspersons.

Upshaw was able to do both in an era in America that had recently left behind the 1960s, when the United States was rightfully chastened for its racist past by the Civil Rights movement -- particularly, The Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. and later a religious Malcolm X.

For Uupshaw's critics who are unfairly critical of this great man, I'll be blunt: You are a bunch of uneducated ignoramuses.

Largely because of Upshaw's leadership, the NFL set up a retirement plan for players that would reward them later in life as any retirement plan is supposed to do.

However, some players took early retirement payoffs, so that in their later years they had significant financial problems. Is that Upshaw's fault?

He was a compassionate, generous man who often helped others by tapping his own wallet.

Although some former NFL players have taken their grievances against him public, Upshaw's attributes far outweigh any faults that detractors can find. No one is perfect and faultfinding has become a national pastime, which is unfortunate.

At this time, he deserves our prayers, not a recitation of any supposed faults.

To football fans, Upshaw will be remembered as one of the league's greatest. He was a lean and mean guard who could run. At 265 pounds, he would be a contemporary guard who took Jenny Craig too seriously.

Do you remember the pads and mounds of tape he wore on his forearms? Didn't they extend to his hands? In the true sense of the words, Upshaw was a leader and mentor. As a longtime team captain, he was a battle-tested warrior.

His tough play is legendary in the annals of football history. Upshaw played through pain and injuries without complaint. He was not pampered.

As the only NFL player to play in a Super Bowl in three different decades, Upshaw will long be remembered by true NFL fans for his perseverance, fairness and sense of purpose.