This article is Part Two of an earlier article on retired Oakland Raiders. It was published in June 2009.
I believe that the re-publication of this article may help to raise the level of awareness of an issue that is a silent crisis in the NFL, and particularly with some of the senior Oakland Raiders.
Article - revisited
One sports writer who knows many retired NFL players and who I have admired for more than 30 years, bluntly indicated that he is older now. He says he cannot take on any new projects. He is dealing with his reality of getting older.
He is 76 years old. Over the years, I have gained a deeper understanding of some issues in the NFL, politics, and life because of his articles. I take time to thank him, through emails. I want him to know that his work is valued.
Another retired NFL player was wandering through the streets of a small town, and I heard about him. He was depressed and appeared to be unhappy. He would walk for hours, looking down, picking up cans, collecting them, placing them in a large black garbage bag, and them selling the cans at a recycling center.
It broke my heart to see this great man in a situation which I did not understand.
I decided to see if I could get through to him. I remembered the words of a professor who was a minister. The professor would say, "Each one, teach one."
I selected the NFL player that I wanted to re-connect with to jar him back to a level of functionality, if possible. I invited my son to join me, and we traveled twice a month to see the retired NFL player.
Our little mission lasted about 18 months.
Here are a few things we did to encourage the retired player to urge him to get off the streets:
1. We told him we would bring him cans every week to help him. We showed him respect. We explained to him that we understood that his can project was a way to assert his independence. We honored what he did, but we offered to help him. We found a degree of dignity in what he did.
2. We attempted to communicate with those people who were in his small social circle. We let the other guys who hung out on the streets know that this man was a great man who had fallen on hard times. We shared nuggets of data and facts about the retired player's career.
3. We showed respect to the other guys on the streets who would help us find him, sometimes. We always used respectful titles on their names, calling them, for example, Mr. Herman.
4. We always made appointments with the retired NFL player. We would let him select the date, time, and place for our next meeting. After two weeks we would travel to the small town and go to the place the retired player selected for the meetings.
Ninety-eight percent of the time, the retired player would be sitting, and waiting for us.
5. We would, then, sit around and talk, play dominoes, walk a trail, talk more, and so on.
6. Often we would take the retired NFL player to a nice restaurant and order a lobster dinner. The retired NFL player would smile, and tell us that the last time he had lobster was when he was with his NFL team.
7. We showed the retired NFL player a lot of respect and expressed a lot a gratitude to him for inspiring us over the years. We talked about concepts such as gratitude, forgiveness, and a few plans for the future.
8. Lastly, we traveled to Canton, Ohio to do research and take pictures at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We are returning to the Hall of Fame today, to continue our research.
9. We have already sent many of the pictures of our first visit to the retired NFL player and to his brother. Hopefully, the retired player and his brother who is also elderly can sit together and remember some of the great guys who played during the retired NFL player's era.
There is much more to this journal. The main idea is that if each one of us would take time out and reach out to a senior citizen or a retired NFL player, the quality of life for the giver and the receiver will be improved.
The journey is ongoing. The expectation is that some (if not all) of the active NFL players ought to consider partnering with a retired NFL player. The effort to encourage a senior citizen is a good thing.
This is a proposal for all of us to consider.
Pass it on to someone else.
I am pictured with a Hall of Fame guide who taught me about NFL helmets. What the Hall of Fame guide taught me, I will pass on to others. I hope to share what I have learned with the retired NFL player.
I encourage you to keep a journal of the response you get. Remember the motto: "Each one, reach one, teach one."
I want to say "thanks" to Pastor C. L. Jackson, Rev. Edsel Warren Brannon, Jr., and to Mr. K. Kanyama for their assistance and counsel on this effort. Others who were helpful are Pastor Sampson, Bishop Leonard, Pastor T. Jones, and Pastor T. Wilson.