BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore says farewell to one of its most beloved football stars. Family, friends and fans attended John Mackey’s memorial service Saturday. As Gigi Barnett explains, his football injuries sparked much debate about safety on the field.
Hall-of-fame football legend John Mackey dedicated his life to the sport. This weekend, family, fans and former players gathered at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore to remember his legacy.
“John was a superstar. John was the greatest tight end that ever played. He may be the greatest football player that ever played,” said former teammate Bill Curry.
He was #88 on the Baltimore Colts, a three-time All Pro who led the team to a Super Bowl victory. But after his career, dementia set in, caused by the pounding pace of the gridiron.
“I was going over to the hospital to see him and it had gotten to a point where sometimes I’m almost ashamed of myself. I stopped going because it was too difficult,” said former teammate Lenny Moore.
“It’s hard to believe the number of blows to the head, and somebody like John Mackey passed out more blows than he took,” said Curry. “Back then, it was just considered noble no matter how you felt.”
Mackey’s struggle with the disease led to the formation of the NFL’s 88 Plan, which provides care for retired players with dementia. So far, it’s helped 166 players and their families with medical expenses.
“It’s made life easier for those families. That is a terrible disease and challenging for everyone,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “People like John helped make the game safer.”
This funeral was open to the public. Mackey’s family says it was important to do that so his fans who loved him in life could honor him in death, as well.
John Mackey was 69. Meanwhile, the 88 Plan has given more than $12 million to former NFL players.