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Honoring Our Heroes and Leaders

The greatness of Mel Renfro will be at a McKinney Ave. lunch today highlighting the problems facing pro football's old-timers.

Dead presidents? Hardly. On this most special of days, when we take time to remember and celebrate the men whose talents helped shaped our lives and whose posters help cover our bedroom walls, it is, as usual, about football. Yeah, as expected, Michael Irvin is gone from ESPN and Bill Parcells is headed there, but today in Dallas the objects of our affection will be such men as Mel Renfro, Tony Dorsett and Rayfield Wright.

Those three Hall of Fame Cowboys, along with former Denver Broncos star Wade Manning, will be among the guests at the Pro Football Players Alumni Association Kickoff Luncheon at noon at Carina's Restaurant (which was, till recently, Americas Latin Cuisine & Tapas at 2900 McKinney Avenue, formerly America's) in Uptown. The event -- hosted by, who else, Scott Murray -- is part of a surging attempt by old-timers to raise awareness and create solutions for players being neglected once they take off the pads for good.

Robert told you the other day about some of the players' troubles, but the issues addressed at today's luncheon are much more serious. At the Super Bowl relevant voices such as Mike Ditka and Howie Long spoke out about the lack of care for ex-players. In this New York Times article, 34-year-old former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson talks about his cognitive impairment from repeated concussions. And this story details the problems facing former players who can't get the attention, much less any help, from current players' union chief Gene Upshaw. Bottom line: Not all retired players make the smooth transition from huddle to network TV gig. Most wind up with no health insurance, miniscule pensions and debilitating physical pain and mental anguish. The average life expectancy of an NFL player is 54. So go eat a meal. And help a hero. --Richie Whitt

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