The Oakland Raiders, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, teamed up with Alta Bates Summit for "Play Like a Pro," raising funds for breast cancer programs and services for low-income women at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. The event, which took place at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, was two-fold, most importantly raising breast cancer awareness, but also allowing the participants to have a little fun.
The panel is introduced to the event attendees in the Hennessey Black West Side Club at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
"Play Like a Pro" got underway with lunch, with event participants mingling with current players LB Kamerion Wimbley and QB Bruce Gradkowski. Raiders.com's Jeanette Thompson emceed the program leading up to a heartfelt, emotional speech by WR Louis Murphy.
Murphy, a second-year player out of the University of Florida, lost his mother to breast cancer shortly before graduating college. His experience with losing a loved one has motivated him to raise breast cancer awareness to as many women as possible. "I want them to go get checked out, have faith, don't give up, and everything will be okay," said Murphy. "They'll be able to fight the struggle."
WR Louis Murphy made a passionate speech at the 2010 Play Like a Pro event. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
His story brought on tears for many of the "Play Like a Pro" participants. Murphy explained the progression of his mother's disease and the shock of learning that his mother's life was coming to an end. "I got a phone call from my dad saying, 'Son, you need to come home, your mom is going through this cancer thing again.' I was shocked, I talked to my mom, two, three, four times a day and she never once mentioned that cancer had come back," said Murphy to the audience. "So I went home [February 2] and it was bad, it was nearing the end. Now looking back it, I never once thought she was going to be gone. She went into surgery and she never came out of the surgery. She fought it until February 14."
As his mother struggled to survive, Murphy promised his mother three things. "I promised her that I'd graduate from the University of Florida," he said. "I promised I would make it to the NFL because she always told me you can't go to the NFL unless you graduate. I had some 20 hours to finish. I ended up doing 20 hours in the summer on top of training camp, taking 20 hours and trying to learn plays and everything. I had to do it by any means necessary. The third thing was I promised I would make her proud every day I live."
Murphy knew he was making his mother proud by coming to the Coliseum and raising cancer awareness. He ended with this message: "If any woman is battling breast cancer, if any woman is in remission, if any woman hasn't had a check up yet, I stress to you if anything, go get checked, go get looked at because one day you could be perfectly fine and then one day it could just hit and you would never see it coming. Attack this thing full force, that's how I try to do it on Sundays, every Sunday, don't worry about it, just go out there and fight the fight."
Murphy touched the hearts of every person in the room. He stayed behind to sign autographs as the program transitioned down to the field to allow Raiders legends Vance Mueller, Robert Jenkins, Kenny Shedd, and surprise guest Rod Woodson, to teach the guests about offense, defense, and special teams. "We try to simplify the game for the fans so they'll understand what they're hearing on the radio or on TV," said Woodson. "The more you understand about a sport or a certain subject, the better you enjoy it so that's the simple fact of it."
Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski poses for a photo with event attendees. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Mueller explained offense, Jenkins taught defense with Woodson's help, and Shedd taught special teams. Shedd explained that if "[p]eople are more interested, they're watching the game, they know the rules of special teams and that's exciting to see." As much as the Legends enjoy sharing their love of football, their real reason for being there was to give back in any way possible for a good cause. "We need to do whatever we can to help out. It's a great cause," said Shedd.
Robert Jenkins and Rod Woodson (right) teach the game of football at Play Like a Pro. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Legends and current players attended "Play Like a Pro" because of guests like married couple Fabian and Jan Ramirez. The trip to the event was an anniversary gift from Jan to Fabian, who has been a Raiders fan for nearly 50 years. Fabian Ramirez lost his mother to breast cancer only a month ago and felt a sincere connection to Murphy's story. Jan Ramirez saw the "Play Like a Pro" invitation and knew they needed to be there. "I thought, oh this will be perfect," said Jan Ramirez. "It's the day after our anniversary and I'll surprise him." The married couple enjoyed their day remembering Fabian's mom, while having the opportunity to meet players from their favorite team and stand on the Raiders field.
Murphy, along with his teammates, Raiders Legends, Alta Bates representatives, and volunteers from Kohls, inspired and lifted the spirits of the "Play Like a Pro" guests and the event was the perfect way to end Breast Cancer Awareness month. Although October has come to a close, the fight continues.