In Warren County, it's not very often you will find three former NFL football players under the same roof.
One of those rare instances came Wednesday evening at the 35th Annual American Cancer Society Men's Golf Tournament at Conewango Valley Country Club.
The annual golf outing that allows golfers to "fight cancer on the links," included 13-year (1969-1981) veteran offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and four-time Super Bowl champion Jon Kolb and nine-year (1985-1993) veteran running back for the Cleveland Browns and two-time pro bowler Kevin Mack as well as George Lilja who spent six seasons in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets, Browns and Dallas Cowboys.
Times Observer photo by Allen Seybert
Former Cleveland Browns running back Kevin Mack signs a Browns hat for a fan prior to the start of the banquet for the 35th Annual American Cancer Society Men’s Golf Tournament Wednesday at Conewango Valley Country Club.
Kolb was the keynote speaker at the event's banquet, Mack was a participant in the golf outing and Lilja was there representing Warren General Hospital as its Executive Director of Group Medical Services.
Kolb was complementary of Warren in his first visit to the area, saying "you know a place is special when you come in as a stranger and leave as a friend."
The four-time Super Bowl champ said he was moved to accept the speaking position at the event because of the effect cancer has one virtually all of the population.
"It's safe to say that cancer is one disease that affects nearly everybody in the population," he said. "You may never personally have the disease, but the chances are very great you will know and be affected by somebody who does."
Kolb said that whenever he speaks about cancer, one word always comes to mind.
"That word is hope," he said. "You can't talk about cancer without talking about hope. Hope that someday this awful disease will be overcome for good."
To emphasize the power of hope, Kolb told a story from the night before his first Super Bowl appearance against the Minnesota Vikings on January 12, 1975.
"There was an offensive lineman for the Vikings named Ed White who it was said was so strong he could rip a New Orleans (the site of the game) phone book in half," said Kolb. "The night before the game several of our strongest players (including Larry Brown and Jack Lambert) unsuccessfully tried to rip the New Orleans phone book in half."
After several players were unsuccessful, Kolb took his turn and managed to rip the phone book in two. Soon after, Lambert, Brown and Sam Davis found additional phone books and cooly ripped them in two.
"By the time the game came around, there wasn't a New Orleans phone book around that hadn't been ripped in two," said Kolb. "Ripping that phone book gave our guys hope - hope that we were just as strong - and we took the field that day knowing we weren't going to lose that game."
Kolb also demonstrated that he remains cool under pressure.
When one of the banquet attendees left the room and returned with a Warren phone book, the hands of the man who finished fourth in the World's Strongest Man competition in both 1979 and 1980, calmly ripped the book in two before concluding his speech.
Earlier in the day, Mack - affectionately known as the "Mack Truck" during his days with the Browns - completed 18 holes on the CVCC course alongside the course's PGA Golf Professional Patrick Damore.
Mack, who currently works in the Alumni Relations Department, with the Cleveland Browns, was urged to attend the ACS event by Lilja - who blocked for Mack as Cleveland's left guard in 1985 and 1986.
"I'm great friends with George and we've talked several times in recent years about me coming up for the event and checking out this area," said Mack. "Originally I was supposed to come last year, but a pretty crazy schedule prevented it. This year, I promised him I'd be here."
Despite being an avid golfer, Mack wasn't entirely pleased with his round on Wednesday.
"I played two or three holes okay, but I was pretty disappointed with my performance today," he said. "The course was incredible though. This really is a great spot and the people of this area have been great to be around."