Continuing my series of blogs looking at things that happened "in this week" in past seasons, I would like to take a quick look at one of the most colorful and open hearted players in Denver Broncos history, Lyle Alzado.
Lyle's career was in the 1970's and early '80's, and lot of fans probably only remember him as a Raider, if at all.
But the Broncos have a deep core of fans spanning all age groups, and my bet is there are still a great number of Broncos fans who remember Lyle (we were good friends, and I just cannot bring myself to refer to him in print as "Alzado," even though that is journalistically correct. Lyle will always just be Lyle to me) as Bronco first.
It was 37 years ago this week, on June 12, 1977 that he was named the winner of the National Football League Players Association's Byron "Whizzer" White award as the group's Man of the Year.
A lot of fans will remember him for his untimely death, with stories about steroid use pretty common in all the articles written at that time.
But I am not going to judge Lyle in that regard. A lot of guys have done a lot of things that they thought would benefit their bodies, and three decades ago it was often without benefit of any accurate information.
But speaking as one who knew him on and off the field, complete with off-the-field warts and his capacity for total insanity when chasing down a quarterback or ballcarrier, Lyle Alzado was one of the top humanitarians with who I have worked in my entire career.
He played in the days before players had foundations that made organized giving to charitable causes.
I do not recall anybody having a foundation in 1978, but I do remember instance after instance when he gave freely of his personal time.
He went to Children's Hospital all the time—I mean, every week, at least once a week, in season and off-season. He went so often that he knew some of the kids by name.
One year Lyle told me he wanted to provide Christmas for a needy family—everything including the tree, the decorations, the presents, a turkey, the works. He had one qualifier for this request—I could never tell the press. No one could know.
And I never told anybody, until now. I figure the statute of limitations is pretty much over now, and people deserve to know what a good guy he was.
The family was shocked to see him drive up, as they had no advance info at all that he would be coming.
Back in those days the PR department handled marketing and community relations as well, so my days got kind of busy.
Besides handling all the media, I set up player appearances—paid and unpaid—and got all the phone calls asking for a player to come see someone. A lot of time, it was to see kids who were not doing too well physically.
Lyle was my key go-to guy. I would be asking him once or twice a week if he could go see a sick kid, besides his visits to Children's Hospital.
Finally, one day, Lyle said, "Jim, don't ask me to go see sick kids any more. You never have to ask me. Just put his or her name and address in my locker and I will go. But you never have to ask."
I did, and he went. Time after time after time.
He absolutely had a heart of gold, and was as genuine a giver as I have ever encountered. When Lyle was out for the season in 1976 we did a daily one-hour radio show together, and he shared his philosophy of giving in many moments off the air.
So regardless of any personal demons he fought, publicly or privately, I will always remember Lyle as the guy who never told me no. And never, ever, was there to be any publicity. I set them up and kept my mouth shut to the press, and Lyle just kept on going.
He was recognized by the Players Association with its highest honor 37 years ago this week, and they picked the right guy for that award. So you have to judge the book by its contents, not just by what you read about on the cover.