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Guest Blog - Willie Wood Fundraiser

Hope everybody had a great weekend. This looks like my last full week on the beat for a long while - sitting on a bunch of vacation and comp time with the baby on the way - so I'll do my best to get a lot of stuff up. Pretty quiet on the Skins front, but I am digging away on a fwe things and will post more as I know more.

Anyway, got an email from Stephen, who is putting together what sounds like a killer event to honor legend WIllie Wood, who needs some medical help, and it's something I am guessing some of you guys would like to attend. I am on babywatch this weekend, but would love to go myself.

Too many of the game's true good guys and pioneers are overlooked today. Willie is certainly one of them. I'll let Stephen explain it from here. :

The Vincent T. Lombardi Foundation will be roasting DC native and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Wood. The event will be gin at 6:30 PM on Friday, March 16 (Willie Wood Day in DC) at Agraria Restaurant in Georgetown (3000 K Street @ Washington Harbour) . RSVP to (703) 827-5480 or williewoodroast@yahoo.com . Suggested contribution is $200.00.

The Roast proceeds will be used to help with Willie's health care expenses, and the Foundation also want s to call attention to the fact that many of the former NFLers do not have sufficient pension funds to cover their health care needs. Willie has a new right hip and right knee, has had lower back surgery and will have replacement surgery on the left knee shortly after the March 16th event. All of these maladies are directly related to his long career as one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the history of the NFL. Willie also has been diagnosed with dementia, gout, diabetes and high blood pressure. H e is now wheelchair bound. Through all this, he has maintained a positive attitude and wants to do everything possible to be able to walk again.

The following players have told us they will be attending: Hall of Fame Members: Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Lenny Moore, Sam Huff, Bobby Mitchell, Charlie Taylor. Packer teammates attending -- Jerry Kramer, Boyd Dowler, Bill Curry , Tom Brown and Ted Hendricks . Invited but unconfirmed: Sonny Jurgensen, Steve Largent, Willie Lanier, Len Dawson and Jim Brown.

Willie's accomplishments are impressive. In 1954, he played in the first integrated high school All-Star football game in the Nation's Capitol at Griffiths Stadium and was named the Most Valuable Player. He would become the first Black-American quarterback in modern day college football history at the University of Southern California and was later named co-captain of the team. After college, Willie signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 1960. For twelve years his mentor and father figure would be the legendary coach Vince Lombardi. He would later be named co-captain of the team and become the coach's coach on the field. Willie led the league in punt returns in 1961 and interceptions in 1962. He played in six NFL championship games, Super Bowls 1 and 2, and eight pro bowls. He was named to the All-NFL team six times. Over his career, Willie had 48 interceptions for 699 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he returned 187 punts for 1,391 yards and 2 touchdowns.

In the off-season, Willie could be found teaching in the DC Public schools or working as a Roving Leader for the DC Department of Recreation with at-risk children. He volunteered with the Girls & Boys Clubs and was a contributor and active member on the Board of Directors of Kids In Trouble, Inc.

When his playing days were over, Willie would continue his groundbreaking and pioneering efforts. He would be named the first Black-American head coach in the World Football League with the Philadelphia Bell. He would later be named the first Black-American head coach in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts. In 1989, Willie would join his coach Vince Lombardi and his fellow Green Bay Packer teammates in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.


The Vincent T. Lombardi has supported local causes for more than 25 years. Beneficiaries in recent years have included the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club #2 in Washington, DC.

By Jason La Canfora  |  March 12, 2007; 10:08 AM ET
 
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