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Pro Football Retired Players Association honors three Packers for service to community

GREEN BAY – Players helping players and players helping their communities will highlight the initial Champions Luncheon of the Pro Football Retired Players Association.

Scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Hotel Northland, the luncheon will honor three Green Bay individuals for their contributions, including Harry Sydney, Chris Jacke and Cathy Dworak.

"Green Bay is a pro football town," said Darrell Thompson, former Packers running back and chairman of the PFRPA board. "We are trying to help former players and recognize former players. It felt like the right thing to do."

The trio will receive their awards because:

  • In addition to her role as Packers director of community outreach and player/alumni relations, Cathy Dworak chairs the board of trustees for Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Foundation. She is on the board of directors for Rawhide Youth Services, Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity and The Angel Fund for Children with Cancer.

  • Chris Jacke founded Player Alumni Resources, also known as P.A.R. 13, in 2013 as an organization working to increase interaction of Green Bay Packers alumni and Wisconsin sports celebrities with Wisconsin communities, organizations and fans. A former placekicker, Jacke played eight seasons with the Packers and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2013.

  • A former running back for the Packers and three-time Super Bowl champion as player and coach, Harry Sydney founded My Brother’s Keeper in 2003. The male-mentoring program has assisted thousands of boys and men find success in dealing with the hardships in their lives.

The PFRPA can accomplish several goals with the luncheon. For one, proceeds will support its charitable Greater Good Fund. Also, it will raise the organization's profile. The association is relatively young, having formed in 2013, and doesn't have the public name recognition of the NFL Players Association, which primarily works with active players and negotiates the collective bargaining agreement with the league.

That said, PFRPA does have 10,000 former football-player members. Any player who signed an NFL contract, whether they played 10 years or 10 minutes, is eligible.

Pictured from left are Harry Sydney, Boys and Girls Club member Timmy Bee and Miller Heart.
Pictured from left are Harry Sydney, Boys and Girls Club member Timmy Bee and Miller Heart.

Career accomplishments are not a requirement to participate at any level. Thompson, the 19th overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft, played his entire five-year career in Green Bay, and was teammates with both Jacke and Sydney. Other directors include Billy Joe Dupree of the Dallas Cowboys and Pro Football Hall of Famers Ron Mix of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, Dave Robinson of the Packers and the Washington team, Mike Haynes of the Raiders and New England Patriots, Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears, and Jackie Slater and Jack Youngblood, both of the Los Angeles Rams. Most of them are expected to attend the luncheon.

"We have guys that really care about taking care of their own," said Joseph Agbasi, the association's executive director.

The PFRPA was created in the wake of a court case in which former NFL players sued the league over their publicity rights. The league won the case (although it settled with 20 of 23 plaintiffs). As a result, it was decided to create an organization to benefit all retired NFL players.

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame inductees Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, left, and Chris Jacke, inside Lambeau Field on July 20, 2013.
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame inductees Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, left, and Chris Jacke, inside Lambeau Field on July 20, 2013.

"When we started a little over eight years ago, we were the new kids on the block. We wanted to assist in areas there might not have been an offering," Agbasi said. "You’ve got to show you can do it, show you are going to create something that’s going to be of value."

The association offers a range of benefits and programs, including, among others:

The association assists former players in making money, whether through its alumni media network or in promoting people who are often overlooked. Thompson said the organization advocates for alumni who played lower-profile positions, i.e. not quarterback, running back or receiver, for national and local promotional opportunities.

"A lot of time, you have to be off the charts (popular) to get in a commercial," he said. "We are just trying to put them out front. We are tying to say, 'You have to look at offensive linemen.'"

This will be the latest in NFL-related events in the history of the Northland, which was once the center of NFL gatherings in Green Bay. Agbasi said whether the luncheon will return to Green Bay or be held in other cities has not been decided, although he said working with people in Green Bay was enjoyable.

"We hope they get bigger and better. We had just a handful of sponsors this year," Thompson said. "I am hoping to continue to grow the organization. Also provide more more opportunities where players can earn more money on their own."

Contact Richard Ryman at rryman@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Packers play big roles in Pro Football Retired Players Association