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NFL Hall of Famers tee it up in local golf fundraiser

Sanford Hillsman, president of The 100 Black Men of Albany, was instrumental in setting up Monday's outing.

Sanford Hillsman, president of The 100 Black Men of Albany, was instrumental in setting up Monday's outing.

ALBANY — Former Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman Rayfield Wright had a ring on each finger as he sat in the Doublegate Country Club clubhouse on Monday evening — one for winning Super Bowl VI and another for being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His most prized possession, however, is his college degree.

It was that passion for education and youth that brought the legendary Cowboy to Albany for the inaugural Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Classic.

He was one of several Hall of Famers to play in the outing, which raised money for the Dougherty County Sheriff’s office and The 100 Black Men of America program “Mentoring the 100 Way.”

“Our kids today are our most important future, and we have to get them away from the negative acticities that they are involved in, like gangs, drugs, violence and kids dropping out of school,” said Wright, who won two of the five Super Bowls he played in during his 12-year career with the Cowboys. “In today’s era — and it makes no difference what color your skin is — if you don’t have an education, you can forget it.”

Sanford Hillsman, president of The 100 Black Men of Albany, spearheaded the golf outing, but he couldn’t have gotten it done without Wright, who reached out to his fellow Hall of Famers and invited them to participate in the event.

Other Hall of Famers at the outing were Ted Hendricks, Joe DeLamielleure, Met Renfro, Bobby Bell, Elvin Bethea, Billy Joe Dupree and Billy Shaw. Also present were L.C. Greenwood and Jessie Tuggle — former NFL players still awaiting their tickets to Canton, Ohio.

“Rayfield called us and brought us out here,” said Bell, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. “We come out and help raise money for kids and foundations. I had a great time down here.”

Last year, the sheriff’s department and The 100 had separate tournaments, but the organizations combined for one big outing this year

“This is the only time in the history of Albany sports to have this many Hall of Famers in Albany, Ga.,” said Hillsman, who was Wright’s roommate at Fort Valley State. “I simply asked (Wright) to do it, and they all know him. And they all agreed. They will do anything to support the youth of the community.”

Reaching out to help troubled youth and knowing the importance of having a good foundation has been Wright’s passion for years.

The Cincinnati Royals, the NBA franchise currently in Sacramento, offered Wright a contract after his junior season at Fort Valley State, but he stayed for his senior season and was later drafted by the Cowboys.

“I had made a commitment to my mother and grandmother that I would stay in school till I received my college degree,” Wright said.

Wright is also committed to returning to Albany for further golf classics.

“I’ll be here every year from now on,” Wright said. “As long as I am above ground, I will be here.”