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Here's a tribute to the good guys in sports

Warrick Dunn embraces Allahon Marbra, 13, whose family is one of dozens that has a house thanks to Dunn.

KERI WIGINTON | Times (2008)

Warrick Dunn embraces Allahon Marbra, 13, whose family is one of dozens that has a house thanks to Dunn.

Maybe you saw the photos. The high school that Derrick Brooks helped to build had its first graduating class.

Maybe you heard the news. Warrick Dunn bought another house, No. 85 in an ongoing series, for another family.

Maybe you got the word. Over a recent weekend, Mike Alstott helped raise $60,000 to help kids with cancer.

Good guys, those guys.

Still.

Their days as Buccaneers are over. For them, there will be no more tackles, no more yards, no more touchdowns. At least, not here.

Even so, there is no need for the cheering to stop.

What they are doing now is much more important than football.

Look around. There are so many headlines about so many head cases. Anymore, it seems as if athletics are drug users and dog shooters, spouse abusers and drunken drivers, cheaters and liars.

Every now and again, you have to remind yourself that the good guys in sports are still winning. Yes, they are out there, and yes, there are more of them than you think.

There are enough, perhaps, for a Hall of Fame of their own.

That's the constant debate, isn't it? Every time a player is up for a Hall, it seems, we discuss whether he was a good guy as well as a good player. So why not make a Hall simply for the good guys?

Oh, I know. There is already the Sports Humanitarian Hall in Boise (Dunn is a member). But it seems to focus on the weight of the names of the inductees rather than the depth of their contributions.

I want Joey Cheek in my Good Guy Hall of Fame. You remember Cheek. He's the Olympic athlete who gave all of his money, and most of his time, to helping the people of Darfur.

I want Andrea Jaeger in my Good Guy Hall of Fame. I covered Jaeger back when she was a little girl knocking off the big names of tennis. Now, she's an Anglican nun who spends her days trying to comfort children with cancer.

I want Dikembe Mutombo in my Good Guy Hall of Fame. A few years ago, Mutombo raised $15 million to help build a hospital in the Congo.

I want Tony Dungy, who works for prison ministries these days. I want Danny Wuerffel and his Desire Street Ministries. I want Vinny Lecavalier, who has committed to raising $3 million for a pediatric cancer facility at All Children's Hospital and who brings a suite full of affected kids to roughly half of the Lightning's games.

I want Joe Delaney, who died trying to rescue children from drowning. I want John Offerdahl, who once helped pull a couple out of a pond after they had driven their car into it. I want Michael Matz, the former Olympian equestrian rider who survived a plane crash and helped pull other survivors out.

I want David Robinson and Arthur Ashe, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees, John Lynch and Brad Richards. I want the winners of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and the NBA Humanitarian of the Year.

Remember the Central Washington softball team that carried an opposing batter (Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon) around the bases after she hurt her knee hitting a home run? I want the Central Washington team, too.

Remember Darius McNeal of DeKalb High School, who intentionally missed two free throws after a Milwaukee Madison opponent (Johntell Franklin) showed up late and wasn't on the pregame roster? Franklin was late because his mother died. DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman said his team didn't want the free throws. After being told the free throws were mandatory, Rohlman instructed McNeal to miss intentionally. In the good guy Hall, I want Rohlman and McNeal.

Remember the story about Jake Porter, the young man from Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio? Porter, who suffers from fragile X syndrome, dressed out for the Northwest football team. As a junior, he got a handoff and took a knee. The next year, against Waverly High, his coach wanted to do the same. However, Waverly coach Derek DeWitt said, no, he wanted Porter to score. So both teams stood and pointed as Porter ran into the end zone. Yeah, DeWitt gets in.

These stories are all around us. Everywhere.

Perhaps we should relish them a little more often.

Here in Tampa Bay, we have been fortunate with the athletes we have seen. We are a better place to live because of some of them.

Take Brooks. He builds schools. He escorts kids around the globe.

Take Dunn. He gives away homes. If you are wondering if Dunn makes a difference, consider this: He has given away 85 homes, and 84 of the families are still there. All some people need is a boost.

"I think it comes from within,'' Dunn said. "The guys who truly get it, they don't do it for recognition. They want to see people have a better opportunity. They want to improve someone's life. Sometimes, you just have to have a passion to see people be better and live better.

"A lot of athletes are doing a lot of things. But there is so much that needs to be done.''

Take Alstott. He comforts kids who are fighting cancer.

"Whatever positive influence I can have, that's worth a thousand touchdowns,'' Alstott said. "Life is much bigger than athletics.''

Alstott, too, says he is impressed when he hears about the way some athletes give back.

"That's the legacy that's going to go on forever and ever,'' he said.

Here's a tribute to the good guys in sports 06/03/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 4, 2009 6:36am]
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