Superbowl week. My team’s not in it, but I still follow it pretty close because I just like football. Something interesting I ran across is the number of men on both the Packers and the Steelers that weigh over 300 pounds. There are 26 players on the two teams that weigh north of 300. That’s amazing! There are only 53 players on each team. That’s nearly 25%! There are another 6 players over 300 on their reserve squads.
Some of these guys, I don’t know how they can play football. B.J. “The Freezer” Raji for the Pack clocks in at 337, according to the roster. He’s the guy that intercepted Chicago QB Hanie in the NFC Championship and ran for a touchdown. How does someone that big play football and not drop dead of a heart attack. With a dance to boot which, by the way, has become so popular, you too can learn how to “Raji”. Green Bay’s first Super Bowl team, 45 years ago, didn’t have a guy heavier than 265 pounds. Mean Joe Greene, at 275 pounds, was the biggest player on the Steelers when they won their second championship in 1976.
How did these guys get so big, and could any of this really be good for them? They eat tons of food. I suppose that’s great when they are young and so very active. But what are they going to do after football?
Take the case of Jamie Dukes. First Reggie White died, followed by Tory Epps and Mel Agee. By mid-2005, former NFL center Jamie Dukes was not only mourning his former teammates, but fearing that morbid obesity would leave his own three children without a father. When Dukes, 44, retired in 1996 his 6-1 frame carried a muscular 290 pounds. A decade later, over-eating and reduced exercise had left him at 385 pounds. The weight-related deaths of his friends and concern of his wife and children led Dukes to undergo gastric banding surgery. In fewer than six months he lost 85 pounds, and is a public face of an issue that has emerged as a silent killer of NFL retirees: obesity.
According to stats provided to The Associated Press by Stats LLC, there was one 300-pound player in the league in 1970, three in 1980, 94 in 1990, 301 in 2000 and 394 at the start of last season.
As guys get bigger, the pressure mounts from teams and the NFL to ‘keep up’. Speaking of which, Packers nose tackle Howard Green spent the preseason with the Redskins, where they wanted him to play at about 360 pounds. They cut him and he eventually ended up with the Packers. In their media guide, they boasted that he “brings size and bulk to the interior of the defensive front at 6-foot-2, 340 pounds.” “That’s cool for right now,” Green said. “I could do better, but I’ve got to do what I do for right now. You can’t go into depletion mode in the middle of the season. You’ll be weak. You’ll get your butt kicked out here by these guys.”
The man who used to be the poster child for unhealthy NFL living in the Super Bowl city of Dallas is Nate Newton. Once a proud 400-pounder nicknamed “The Kitchen,” he’s now on billboards for gastric-sleeve surgery. The ads scream “Lose Weight Like Nate,” and indeed, Newton is a shell of his former self, weighing in at a svelte 215 pounds. He said all the weight-related health problems he had — diabetic conditions, sleep apnea and more — resolved themselves when he took off the pounds.
On the other end, there’s the story of his fellow Cowboys lineman, Erik Williams, who limped into the Super Bowl media hotel Tuesday on a cane. He recently was diagnosed with severe degenerative arthritis in his hip — a result, in part, of playing in the 300-plus range over 11 seasons. “I’m disabled right now,” he said. “I need two hip replacements. It’s definitely something to look out for.” And yet, he concedes, he wouldn’t change a thing. “If they lose weight, then they jeopardize their position,” Williams said. “Linemen have to be strong, have to be quick, have to be agile. It comes with the territory. They may need hip surgery, it might be toes or it might be knees. I’d just tell guys to just keep doing things you love and whatever consequences come with that, deal with it.”
Is it worth it? I don’t know. Depends on your priorities. When I was 24 years old I probably would not make the same decision as I would today. Of course, when I was 24 there were no 300 pounders. One things for sure, 300 Pounds Just Ain’t What It Used To Be!