On The Fence
Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 9/2/2015, 6:26 p.m.
In 1968, my father was a mere 22 years of age and a pretty successful linebacker on the Northwest Missouri State University football team. The only person in our family to that point who had attended college not only excelled in the classroom, turns out he equally captured campus classmates and fans with his football skills. Those skills led him to a short career in the American Football League or as we know it now, the NFL.
I was recently combing through documents long since boxed away and forgotten when I was presented with his original contract to play football for the Kansas City Chiefs entitled “American Football League Standard Players Contract”. With an obvious interest, I took a mental note of the overall simplicity of the contract which was a three page document paired with a half page cut out form that represented his signing bonus. What really took me by surprise were the amounts he was to be paid annually to play at the highest level in the sport.
According to the agreement and confirmed by my father himself, he was to be paid $13,000.00 per season, 75% payable in weekly installments commencing with the first game and ending with the final game then would be paid the remaining 25% at the end of the last game. Oh and his signed bonus was a hefty $2,000.00. Based on the type of dollars tossed around professional athletes who play, this contract seemed for lack of a better term, cheap.
My father, like most professional athletes of his era held a part time job in the off season to make ends meet but not once have I ever heard him complain or even compare his situation to modern day athlete salaries. It was and still is irrelevant to him. He didn’t play the sport or treat his role in it based on solely a monetary return but rather out of pure passion for the game.
The sport in his eyes was seen as nothing more than a catalyst to what he ultimately accomplished in many other areas of his life. Of course I am proud of the fact that he was and still is part of a very small fraternity but what makes me smile is how humble he is about it all. Greatness no matter how long it lasts stays with a person however magic happens when once reached, that person shares it with many and in so doing, encourages others to their best efforts.
When an athlete strips away all the hyped up junk fed to them for years and really looks inside themselves for purpose in their chosen sport, I hope that they too will one day look back on their efforts and feel the same way my father does looking back at his playing days…it’s all cake and ice cream kid!