By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Baltimore is mourning the loss of football great John Mackey. He died Wednesday night at an assisted-living facility here in town after a tough battle with dementia.

Mary Bubala spoke with his wife spoke about his life and legacy.

“He has on his cowboy hat,” said Mackey’s wife Sylvia as she points to an old photo. “That’s why this is so special because it was his trademark.”

“He has his Super Bowl ring, his Hall of Fame ring, doing his favorite thing, signing autographs,” Sylvia Mackey said while pointing to more memorabilia.

Sylvia Mackey is remembering the many great stories surrounding her Hall of Fame husband—one of football’s greatest tight ends who played for the Baltimore Colts from 1963 to 1971.

Her favorite memory: John’s refusal to accept his Hall of Fame ring in Indianapolis— instead demanding the ceremony take place in Baltimore!

“He said ‘I’m not going to do that.’ He said ‘I would rather receive it in Baltimore in a bar over beer and crabs than to receive it in Indianapolis,’” Sylvia Mackey said.

John Mackey received that ring during an exhibition game at Memorial Stadium with Sylvia by his side.

What she knew and we would soon learn is that John had been diagnosed with dementia.

Together they pressured the NFL to investigate the connection between player concussions and the onset of dementia.

John Mackey lived with it for 10 years and it led to the “88 plan” to help retired players cover medical care.

“Look how much good this has done for so many families and the residual effects from not only the player and the wife but even the children and the grandchildren,” Sylvia Mackey said.

John Mackey will also be remembered for his efforts to advance players interests.

Fans will remember many moments, including his induction into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2002.

“When they got to John and they gave him his ball he jumped up from his chair and ran to the goal post with the crowd standing on their feet screaming because to him the natural instinct was you get the ball in your hand you run,” Sylvia Mackey recalled.

Sylvia is planning a memorial service for John.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called him one of the great leaders in NFL history on and off the field.


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