(Brandon Carr photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
(Carl Banks photo courtesy of the New York Giants)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
The Michigan city of Flint has given bountifully to professional sports over the years.
Cornerback Brandon Carr of the Dallas Cowboys figures it’s time those pro sports gave back to Flint.
Carr is a Flint native and has been following the city’s water crisis from afar in Dallas. He donated $110,000 to his hometown through the “Carr Cares for Flint” fund to help the city survive its contaminated water crisis. Carr urged his fellow professional athletes to step forward as well.
“I call upon everyone, including my fellow athletes across all professional leagues, to do the right thing and support these kids for long-term through the Carr Cares Fund for Flint,” said Carr last week at the time of his donation.
All athletes and all leagues, and there are many of both who should be listening to Carr.
There is more to the city of Flint than just liberal activist Michael Moore and the musical group Grand Funk Railroad. It’s a city of fewer than 100,000 people -- but there isn’t a town in the country that can match Flint’s per-capita production of professional athletes.
Let’s start with football.
Paul Krause is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s the NFL’s all-time interception leader. He’s from Flint.
So are Carl Banks, Andre Rison, Todd Lyght and the Mark Ingrams, Sr. and Jr. All were first-round NFL draft picks. Banks was an all-decade selection at linebacker for the New York Giants in the 1980s, and Mark Ingram Jr. won the Heisman Trophy at Alabama. Banks, Rison, Lyght and Ingram Sr., were all starters on Super Bowl championship teams.
Flint products Ricky Patton (1981 49ers) and Clarence Peaks (1960 Eagles) also started on NFL championship teams, and linebacker Jim Morrissey picked up a ring with the 1985 Chicago Bears. Also, offensive tackle Jon Runyan was named to the 75th anniversary team of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reggie Williams, who started at linebacker in two Super Bowls with the Cincinnati Bengals, is in the College Football Hall of Fame for his career at Dartmouth. He’s from Flint. So is Tubby Raymond, who coached Delaware to 300 victories and joins Williams in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Yet basketball may be Flint’s best sport.
Flint has produced seven first-round NBA draft picks, including Glen Rice, Roy Marble and Jeff Grayer. Rice is the all-time leading scorer at the University of Michigan, Marble the all-time leading scorer at Iowa and Grayer the all-time leader at Iowa State. Morris Peterson was another first-round draft pick and a member of Michigan State’s 2000 NCAA championship team. That team was dubbed the Flintstones because there were four starters from Flint.
Excellence on the hardcourt isn’t restricted to the men’s game. Sisters Pam and Paula McGee were both All-Americas at Southern Cal and won back-to-back NCAA championships. They played at the same high school (Northern) as first-round NBA draft picks Mateen Cleaves and Terry Furlow. Pam also was an Olympic gold medalist, and her son Javale now plays for the NBA Dallas Mavericks.
Flint has produced two first-round draft picks in baseball, pitcher Jim Abbott by the Angels and outfielder Rick Leach by the Tigers. Another, Merv Rettenmund, played outfield on two World Series champions -- the 1970 Orioles and 1975 Reds -- and was the hitting instructor for a third (1989 A’s). Rettenmund also was an NFL draft pick of the Cowboys.
Abbott, who was born without a right hand, overcame his disability to win the 1987 Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete. He won 87 games in the major leagues and threw a no-hitter against the Indians. Leach played in 799 major-league games over 10 years with a .268 average. He also was a four-year starter at quarterback for Michigan and an NFL draft pick of the Denver Broncos.
And let’s not forget hockey. Forward Brian Rolston was a first-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1991 who became an NHL all-star and a three-time Olympian. He was a four-time 30-goal scorer and a Stanley Cup champion in 1995. Goalie Tim Thomas also was a Stanley Cup champion with the Boston Bruins, winning the Conn Smythe Award as the MVP of the playoffs that year. He was a four-time all-star and a two-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Another Flint product has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup -- four times. Defenseman Ken Morrow won those Cups with the New York Islanders in the 1980s and was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle on Ice” team. He’s in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Chris Byrd also is from Flint. He was a two-time world heavyweight boxing champion in the 2000s.
So when Brandon Carr calls out for help, all pro sports leagues should be listening. All have benefited from his hometown’s assembly line of athletes. For decades there has been something in the water that has produced all those great athletes coming out of Flint. It’s now time for that water to be fixed.
“I’m a product of my environment,” Carr said. “I’m a Flint kid. I had an opportunity to play ball and live a life all kids should have. I don’t understand why these kids shouldn’t have the same opportunity. This (contaminated water) is affecting them every single day that they are exposed to it. I love my city. I love the kids in my city. It’s an unfortunate situation that they have to go through this right now.”