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Former players give weekly pep talks to current crop

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/11/13/sports/paris/22_29_1011_12_05.txt" target="_blank">North County times</a>

    By Jay Paris

    Chargers University comes alive each Thursday during game weeks.

    It's not quite homecoming, but players calling the Chargers their alma mater talk with those still having eligibility.

    "What's good about having them come back here is it gives us an opportunity to see things and understand things,'' tight end Antonio Gates said. "These are the guys that paved the way for us. And obviously they support us, and that is the most important thing."

    It's usually a group of 10-15 former Chargers. Some have retired recently, while the Bolts on others are fading ---- on the outside, anyway.

    These guys live and die with their Chargers, and what made this endeavor come alive was its birth came when the Chargers were left for dead.

    "That's the beauty of it,'' former cornerback Pete Shaw said. "We started when they were 4-12 and we still believed in them. We had a very attentive audience then, and they appreciated it.''

    After coach Marty Schottenheimer's last Thursday whistle, the players take a knee and the old-timers take the stage. Any of the alumni can speak ---- they do put a clock on jabbering Hank Bauer ---- on any topic. Then the alumni's player of the week from the previous Sunday is announced. The recipient receives an impressive electric tool kit that would make any handyman jealous.

    And, yes, LaDainian Tomlinson has enough of them to start a Home Depot.

    "Last year we gave DVD players,'' former kicker Rolf Benirschke said. "We passed the hat and did it with our own money. You buy a $400 DVD 16 times to guys that are making a lot of money, it adds up.''

    What's priceless is the sermons they hear. That's particularly true when one-time safety Miles McPherson clears his throat: He's the senior pastor at The Rock, a nearby church.

    McPherson supplies energy and education. And that's oh-so-cool for Drew Brees.

    "With Miles, we kind of get a testimonial lesson from him,'' Brees said. "Last year, we had all David and Goliath ones.''

    Said McPherson, whose youth pastor at The Rock is former cornerback Darren Carrington: "I tell stories, and nearly every story I tell here I use on Sunday. But this is a tough crowd.''

    It's a crowd experiencing a tough season, which shouldn't be confused with a bad one. At 5-4 and enjoying this week's bye, the Chargers are in position to secure another playoff berth. But with those four losses coming by a combined 12 points, these are times that test a man's soul.

    So former running back Paul Lowe brings his slow-cooked soul food. McPherson sprinkles in his nourishment for the soul.

    Old center Don Macek carts in a funny tale from when Dan Fouts' hands awaited the snap. Benirschke talks of making and missing game-deciding kicks. Shaw relays balancing the pain of getting beat in single coverage with the exhilaration of deflecting a last-minute pass.

    Hall of Fame tackle Ron Mix often visits.

    "They welcome any advice that might help them get better,'' Mix said. "We as former players can't give them coaching tips; so many techniques have changed. But we can share with them our perspective of the game and the respect you have to give the game, and how you prepare for the game and regular life, on and off the field.''

    Shaw shares the disappointment that rides with him to this day. It stems from playing on those powerful Air Coryell teams, which just missed supplying San Diego with it first Super Bowl squad.

    "We tell them things we wish we knew when we were players,'' Shaw said. "And that's don't let this opportunity to get away. There may not be a next year, may not be another playoff game.

    "We let some slip through our hands because we thought we could do it next year. But the players need to play for today and embrace that opportunity.''

    Said Benirschke: "This is a team that is good enough to go a long way, and they are realizing it. But we all know you don't get a lot of chances. It's like that perfect storm: A lot of things come together quickly and you have to take advantage of it while you can.''

    The players are wise to give their predecessors their full attention, even if it's unclear when these guys with limps and gray hair last found their three-point stance.

    "The reality is a lot of these guys weren't even born when a lot of us played,'' Benirschke said. "But this is not really for us.''

    It's for guys needing a boost, a satisfying entree and a dose of perspective as a side dish.

    "They just share their stories,'' Tomlinson said, "and then encourage us whether we win or lose."

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