THE GIDDYchildren serenaded Chargers offensive tackle Roman Oben and his wife, Linda, assoon as the couple reached the tiny school in Nguti, Cameroon. The kids offeredgifts—hats, a homemade shield, handwritten notes of appreciation. This was oneof the stops on Oben's recent eight-day visit to his home country. "Theydidn't care that I was a pro football player," says the 34-year-old Oben,who has two sons. "They only cared that I was there."
At 6'4", 305pounds, Oben makes an impression. So did this journey, during which he visitedthe grave of his father in Buea (whom he never knew and who died last year) anddevoted himself to charitable work. Oben set up bank accounts to help familiesin Nguti buy groceries, and he earmarked donations so children could receivebirth certificates from the government. A starter on the Buccaneers' Super Bowlteam of 2002, Oben lived in Cameroon until he was four, then moved toWashington, D.C., with his mother, Marie, who had gotten a job at the Cameroonembassy. Roman last went to his native country in '04. "When Roman saw theseverity of their poverty," Linda says, "he realized that could haveeasily have been him in that situation."
In all, Oben sayshe has spent nearly $40,000 of his own money to fund projects in the WestAfrican nation. He has also helped build a dormitory for an orphanage in Bueaand not long ago received a $30,000 grant from the NFL to assist with futureefforts. "It's become fashionable for people to help Africancountries," says Oben, "but a place like Cameroon tends to getoverlooked. I just want to do my part."
SAY WHAT YOU will about Bill Cowher—the man has an eyefor patio furniture. That much was evident from the catalog for last week'sauction of items belonging to the former Steelers coach and his wife, Kaye.(The Cowhers bought a furnished house in Raleigh, so they sold off just abouteverything from their old Pittsburgh home.) Among the goods: a pinball machine,a foosball table, three sofas, a ceramic monkey planter (left) that fetched$275 and four sets of outdoor furniture that sold for a total of $1,000.
Dargate, the Pittsburgh auction house that handled thebidding, reported a 30% increase in online bidders during the sale. One of themost sought-after items was a Steelers ice bucket (right) that was reportedly agift from the Rooney family, which owns the team. (It was expected to go for$100 to $200; it sold for $550.) But not all of the bidders were Pittsburghfans; a representative of Dargate said he heard rumors rival fans were biddingon Steelers items so that they could destroy them.