HARRIS COUNTY – HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER
Luv Ya Blue era Oilers, other former athletes give back to the community
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Sometimes things just work out perfectly.
Take it from Dan Pastorini. One minute the heavy rain preceding Monday’s cold front was threatening to interrupt his annual charity golf tournament at Quail Valley. The next, the rain let up and he was rounding everyone up and getting them into their golf carts.
“We just want to give everybody the experience of playing in Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship in1978 so they can appreciate what we went through,’’ he said to some players bundled up for a windy round.
Out on the covered patio, Elvin Bethea and Curley Culp, a pair of Luv Ya Blue’s Pro Football Hall of Famers, chuckled. “I don’t think it’s Pittsburgh,’’ Culp said, ‘’but it is refreshing.’’
The Oilers had back-to-back AFC title games at Three Rivers, both played in freezing temperatures and the second one was known for Mike Renfro’s touchdown-that-wasn’t.
Those were just a few of the tales being tossed around that morning as Pastorini’s event kicked off two weeks of charity golf events in Houston featuring former NFL players.
Pastorini’s event is in its eighth year and has raised approximately $750,000 for Be An Angel. He’s been associated with the charity, which improves the quality of life for children with multiple disabilities or profound deafness by providing needed adaptive equipment and select services, for more than 30 years and was recently named chairman of the board.
“We’ve got a lot of good things happening in the future and the main thing is helping these kids,’’ Pastorini said. “It’s heartwarming. To see what we’ve done for these families is quite an experience and the reason why we do it . . . And seeing the work they do, it’s a no-brainer.’’
Next Monday, the focus turns to Champions Golf Club where Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware and legendary Chronicle NFL writer John McClain will co-host the Gridiron Legends Golf presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors which benefits DePelchin Children’s Center, the official charity of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl.
“This is what it’s all about – giving back,’’ said Bethea, who plays in about 18 charity events each year. “We’re normal, everyday people. We have issues just like everyone else and we’re happy to be out here to do this and do what we can make everybody’s life a little better than before.’’
Billy “White Shoes’’ Johnson agreed.
“I think everyone – to a man – has someone who has influenced us to get where we are and it’s only right for us to give back,’’ he said. “We’re talking about being role models and part of that is being benevolent.’’
All of the players have their own charitable efforts, but they all come together for weekends like these two to help each other. Pastorini’s event included a poker tournament, a dinner and silent auction, capped off by Monday’s golf event. Players who turned out included Culp, Bethea, Johnson, Mike Reinfeldt, Mike Renfro, Vernon Perry and Kenny Houston.
“NFL players have always given back,’’ Pastorini said. “I’m grateful for them to come here and join us every year. They see the need and see what it does for the kids.’’
Ware agrees. He and McClain are in their second year as hosts of the Gridiron event. Ware will be joined by – to name a few -- Pastorini, 2018 HOF inductee Robert Brazile, Don Trull, Haywood Jeffries, Kenneth Sims, Jacob Green, seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, Larry Dierker and Charles Alexander.
“We’re so appreciative of all the guys who come out and support us,’’ Ware said. “We’ve all got a lot of things going on, but we help each other. We’re kind of one of those brotherhoods.’’
Ware plans to increase his work with DePelchin, which was founded in 1892 and takes care of the most vulnerable children and families.
“It has been a humbling experience to see the work they do there,’’ Ware said. “You just realize you’re fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of things in your life and you hope to be in a position to influence some young people outside your world. And you can give them something to strive for.’
All the players enjoy it because it’s a chance to catch up with each other and spin a few tales. Ware even caught with a distant relative -- former Baylor and 1985 Super Bowl champ Dennis Gentry, who is in Monday’s field too.
“To be able to come out meet new friends and fraternize with old brothers . . . it’s great,’’ Johnson said. “Life owes us nothing. I’m fortunate and to whom much is given, much is expected.
“To be able to give and be in a position to help each other? We are our brother’s keepers. We are called to give back. Just to even make people smile.’’
There’s always one more story, one more flashback to recall, he said. And they can even laugh a little about those two games in Pittsburgh when the Luv Ya Blue Oilers tried to kick in that Super Bowl door and couldn’t.
“I think,’’ Johnson said, “they had a steel door, instead of a steel curtain.’’