DAKOTA DUNES, SOUTH DAKOTA (KCAU) – Many former student-athletes from Nebraska are remembered for their time in sports, but what so few realize are the medical struggles these greats experience once their careers are over. That’s where the Nebraska Greats Foundation comes into play, and the non-profit organization continues to raise awareness with the Nebraska Greats Golf Classic event this afternoon at the Dakota Dunes Country Club.
“There’s a lot of foundations out there, but this one I’ve really seen where it’s impacted and changed lives in a big way,” NGF Board Member and 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch said.
50 percent of athletes experience some form of chronic injury from their playing days, while 55 percent report at least one, unaffordable medical bill. But the Nebraska Greats Foundation helps to lessen the burden.
“They have families, they have bills from this former athlete… We take care of those bills,” Nebraska Greats Foundation founder Jerry Murtaugh said. “I do not want the families going through this.”
Going on it’s 16th year, the Nebraska Greats Foundation’s mission is to assist any letter-winner from the 16, 4-year based Nebraska colleges and universities. Meanwhile, Husker Heisman winners were in attendance, and have played a part in the impact.
“It’s been life changing… life saving I should say because it has been beneficial enough to save different athletes lives,” NGF member and 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers said.
“I’m really happy with where we’ve come and where we’re at today in terms of the stability of the foundation and the people that we’re helping,” Crouch said.
In spite of all the lives they’ve affected though, the foundation’s mission is far from over and continue to keep the door open for all struggling former athletes to help them get back on their feet.
“It’s not even really about sports,” Crouch said. “It’s about the relationships and the commonalities that we have with one another, and just… letting your heart out there to help people.”
And with the organization’s numbers rising, they hope to see other Nebraskans join the fight to change a life, one athlete at a time.
“Anything you can do by yourself ain’t big enough,” Rodgers said. “Teamwork makes the dream work. You don’t win national champs by yourself, you don’t win Heisman trophies by yourself, and you don’t build great foundations for your communities by yourself.”
“I think once people get to know who we are, what we’re doing, the lives that we’ve changed, I think they’re gonna jump on board,” Crouch said.
The foundation is always welcoming donations and encourages any former student athlete to apply for help if they are struggling medically.