Throat cancer took Fuzzy Thurston's jocular and enthusiastic voice more than 30 years ago. Now, the Internal Revenue Service says it wants his football memorabilia.
Thurston, a guard on Vince Lombardi's championship teams in Green Bay during the 1960s, had his Super Bowl II ring seized by U.S. marshals over a tax debt. It is scheduled to be sold at an auction taking place in Chicago during the National Sports Collectors Convention. The Packers' victory over the Oakland Raiders was Thurston's last game in the NFL. He retired following the season and went on to open a string of restaurants and bars in Wisconsin.
The government's long-running case dates back decades, after Thurston, some fellow Green Bay teammates and other investors opened a chain of restaurants called The Left Guard.
The group withheld federal income taxes from their employees’ paychecks at the Janesville, Wi., location between 1978 and 1980 but are accused of not paying all of it to the IRS. An employee was held responsible by the government and sued Thurston and his three partners in federal court.
According to court documents, the three others paid off the judgments rendered against them, but Thurston continued to fight over whether his part of the judgment also was satisfied. In 1984, a court ruled Thurston still owed $190,806. Interest has been accumulating and the government now claims it is owed the $1.7 million.
The court appointed Heritage Auctions to sell Thurston's assets to satisfy the debt, but so far, only the Super Bowl I ring, a 1960s Packers helmet and two autographed footballs from the Lombardi era have been turned over to the auction house.
Grey Flannel Auctions recently sold Steve Wright's Super Bowl I ring for over $70,000. It's likely Thurston's ring would bring more.
The news comes less than two weeks after the 2010-11 Packers were awarded their Super Bowl rings. The team and its fans have a long history of strong loyalty to popular players and it wouldn't be a surprise to see an effort of some sort undertaken to purchase the ring and give it back to Thurston.