Some retired NFL players who came along before the big money need help dealing with the painful after-effects. One of their colleagues has set up a Super Bowl week auction of impressive and personal memorabilia aimed at helping their plight.
Jerry Kramer, a guard for Vince Lombardi's World Champion Green Bay Packers teams in the 1960s, will kick off a major auction of NFL memorabilia this weekend. Proceeds benefit the Gridiron Greats Assistance fund.
Some of the items that have been donated and will be featured in the auction include:
- Mike Ditka’s 1975 NFC Championship ring
- Autographed football customized by Dwight Clark with a drawing of the play that resulted in "TheCatch" in the 1981 NFC title game
- Hand-drawn plays by Vince Lombardi donated by the legendary coach’s son.
- Eli Manning’s cleats
- Fearsome Foursome signed print
Other players who are donating items to be included in the Super Bowl week auction include Gale Sayers, Sam Huff, Willie Davis, Lem Barney, Don Shula, Archie Manning, Jan Stenerud, Paul Hornung , Joe Thiesmann, Mel Renfro, Marv Levy, Deacon Jones and members of the New England Patriots Alumni group.
The fund will provide direct or indirect financial assistance to retired players who are disadvantaged or indigent due to inadequate pension and disability compensation. The fund will also provide services to players who need help with medical or domestic issues.
"I am appreciative to all the players who have graciously agreed to serve on this very important board," Kramer said. "These Gridiron Greats have not only excelled on the field, but also as human beings. It brings me great joy that this assembly believes in this vital effort and the worthiness of our cause. Without a doubt, their participation will make the difference," said Kramer.
The Gridiron Greats Superstar online fundraising auction will also kick off during Super Bowl week along with a public donation program. The goal of the auction and donation drive is to raise money for immediate disbursement to those players in need. Many players who helped build the NFL into what it is today ravaged their bodies through years of on-field abuse, and they are consequently unable to maintain a quality of life and financial security for themselves and their families due to physical limitations.
The lack of an adequate pension and retirement program for the older players has left many players with only $100-$300 in monthly pensions. Kramer claims many can't afford to buy medicine or pay medical expenses for necessary surgeries to remedy football related injuries while others have become homeless.
"I am very upset for the below poverty level Pension I am receiving, which is an embarrassing $126.85 per month. Because of the way I have been treated, I stopped wearing my Super Bowl ring and Hall of Fame ring," said Herb Adderley, former Green Bay Packer and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I thank God that I didn't depend on my NFL pension. If I had, I would be homeless and added to the list of my former teammates who Jerry and the others are raising money for."
Although a series of events are being planned to raise money for the fund, the initial events will be the Superstar online auction and donation drive taking place the week of the Super Bowl XLI. Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund spokesperson Jennifer Smith said that, "over the past several months, Kramer has worked diligently to put together the framework for the fund and the Super Bowl week auction. He has spent hours asking past and present NFL greats to go into their closets, trophy shelves and files to pull out game used equipment, awards and other mementos to donate, as well as celebrity experiences."
An auction item preview will be featured on JerryKramer.com starting Sunday, January 28th. The donation drive begins Monday, January 29th.
The idea to start the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund came after Kramer's missing Super Bowl I ring materialized in an online auction sale in April 2006. The auction house returned the ring to Kramer once it learned the item was stolen from Kramer 25 years earlier. After returning the original, it was decided to auction Kramer's replica ring to raise money for these players. It sold for $22,000, nearly double the amount experts predicted. The cause itself is dear to Kramer, who has witnessed the crippling effect a lack of financial support has had on former players he knows personally.
"It's amazing how this initiative developed," said Kramer. "It started out with my frustration in trying to get my Super Bowl ring back, but then it turned into this opportunity to assist some of the retired players who helped build the league into what it is today. By starting this program, we are lending a hand to the guys who need it most."
Several high profile former NFL stars have committed to being part of the Super Bowl week auction, including Mike Ditka, Merlin Olsen, Gale Sayers, Howie Long, Sam Huff, Willie Davis, Lem Barney, Willie Davis, Don Shula, Archie Manning, Dwight Clark, Jan Stenarud, Mel Renfro, many members of the New England Patriots Alumni group, and many more.
Information regarding the fund, superstar auction, donation drive and other initiatives are available at JerryKramer.com. Kramer will also provide complete Super Bowl Week coverage, live from Miami, on his website. Content will include a flashback to Miami 1968, the site of Super Bowl II, which was also the final Super Bowl appearance for Lombardi's Packers. Audio from the Super Bowl II locker room, taped by Kramer as Lombardi addressed his final Green Bay team, is now available at JerryKramer.com.