Former NFL Player Considers Soldiers His Third Family
(November 29, 2009)
|FORT LEWIS, Wash. (Army News Service, Nov. 24, 2009) -- No
movie has been made of Otis Sistrunk's life, although he has
acted in a few, including “Car Wash,” a 1976 comedy produced
by Universal Pictures. A book was written once, but Otis
said the publishers in New York told him there wasn't any
“dirt” in his life to make it something that would sell.|
|Otis Sistrunk shows off his Super Bowl ring to the kids at North Fort Youth Center on Fort Lewis, Wash.
But that's ok for Otis, now the Cowan & Memorial Stadium's
Manager with MWR Sports at Fort Lewis, Wash. The only dirt
he ever cared about was the dirt he's been playing football
on since he was 5 and the only people he's ever cared about
are his three families.|
“The Soldiers are my third family,” Sistrunk said. “The
other two are my own family of five children, all grown up
and gone, and the Raiders,” Sistrunk said. He played his
entire NFL career with the Raiders, including a Super Bowl
XI win against the Minnesota Vikings. “32 to 14,” Sistrunk
said with a smile.
Television fans, nation-wide, saw Sistrunk's steaming bald
head from the sidelines on Monday Night Football, but now
Soldiers and their families have the chance to get
individual help from the pro with lifting free weights in
body building and power lifting, nautilus equipment, team
sports and basically raising the quality of life through
physical fitness, eating right and staying fit.
Sistrunk talks about giving back to the Soldiers and their
families, and one of the best ways, he said, is to get out
to the schools where their children are and pass along the
good word about staying in school and working hard at what
“It's not part of my job,” Sistrunk said, “it's part of my
The students at the North Fort Youth Center recently had a
chance to meet their garrison's stadium manager who was
named to the 1974 Pro Bowl.
“Anybody here a Raider's fan?” Sistrunk asked. Not many
raised their hands.
“Anybody here watch the movie, Car Wash?” Nearly all the
hands went up.
“Anybody here play football?” Many hands went up including
one girl who says she plays both offense and defense.
“Having fun is one of the most important things in my life,”
Sistrunk told the kids, “but the main thing you have to keep
in mind is, stay in school. You should feel blessed to have
the opportunity for both fun and school. Don't get a hard
head, thinking you don't need it. It's important to remember
that doing the right thing is the best thing.”
Sistrunk still thinks about his career that took him
straight from high school and into the NFL, providing him
opportunities most men his age didn't have in the late
sixties and early seventies.
“You can't get into the NFL the way I got in,” Sistrunk
said. “Now you have to go to college. So, that fact, coupled
with the fact that I didn't go to Vietnam, I feel some
guilt. Working with MWR gives me the chance to give back to
Fort Lewis Soldiers have experienced a revolving door of
deployments during the past eight years of persistent
conflict. Many of his former players will call home to see
how their families are doing, but Sistrunk feels a lot of
pride when they also call over to the gym to see how
everything's going. A few of his former players have even
gone on to their own careers in the NFL.
“This is why, to me, working here at Fort Lewis is like
working with my family,” Sistrunk said.
“We used to have 48 football teams here at Fort Lewis, but
this year we're down to 24 teams because of the deployment
cycle,” Sistrunk said. “I've worked with ten generals over
the years, both here and at Fort Benning, and I've received
a lot of respect because I played with the NFL. But it's MWR
which has been really good to me over these years. We have
the best programs and it's a plus for people thinking of
joining the military,” Sistrunk said.
Sistrunk says it's the variety of programs he's been
involved with that make the job so satisfying.
“I've worked with Special Olympics. In fact, we have the
state championship meet here at Fort Lewis every year. We
also have the Wounded Warrior Transition Center here and
recently a group of wounded warriors came here from Colorado
to show how to work with wheel chairs. And we have the
programs for autistic kids and adults.
“This is why I won't retire from MWR,” Sistrunk said.
Born in Columbus, Georgia in 1946, Sistrunk went from high
school first to the Pottstown, Pa., Firebirds and then to
the semi—pro Continental Football League in 1969, where he
played for the Norfolk, Va., Neptunes, the only team that
stayed together throughout the five years of the league's
existence. After three years, a Los Angeles Rams scout
spotted Sistrunk and believed the 22-year-old could play for
the NFL. During team practice, representatives of the
Oakland Raiders successfully worked to bring Sistrunk to
After retiring from the NFL, Sistrunk became a pro wrestler
with the National Wrestling Alliance where he and his
tag-team partner, Michael Hayes, won the NWA National Tag
Team Championship in 1981.
“After that, I became a beer salesman for a few years,”
Sistrunk said “and one of my stops was Fort Benning, where a
colonel asked if I wanted to coach football on the base. At
the time, they were playing college and semi-pro teams but
they dropped it as soon as I started,” Sistrunk remembered,
He stayed on, first working in the gym and then managing the
fitness center for nearly 14 years until transferring to
At a large base, like Fort Lewis, it's not just the Soldiers
and their families, it's also the retired who want to
continue working out.
“That's why I put in the Nautilus equipment. I had high
school students wanting to work out and even younger groups,
13 to 15 who came in with their parents and wanting to know
how to safely use the equipment. I had one 80-year-old
retired first sergeant and his wife who wanted to work out
together. I even have one class where you had to be over 65
to join. It's an honor to be around these people.
“And to keep up with them, I'm always looking for more
FMWR Command Public Affairs
Army News Service
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