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Otis Sistrunk feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by valpo87, Aug 18, 2014.

  1. valpo87

    valpo87 Guest

    This is the first time I have ever posted an article here and maybe I can get better with some feedback. This is a feature on Otis Sistrunk, a former Oakland Raider who is retiring from Joint Base Lewis-McChord after 20+ years.



    Link: http://www.nwguardian.com/2014/08/14/18596/its-not-goodbye-but-see-you-later.html




    In the past five years, several service members from different units throughout Joint Base Lewis-McChord have requested Otis Sistrunk to postpone his eventual retirement until they returned from a deployment.

    Whether the service members’ deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan were for a year or longer, Sistrunk would tell them he would remain the manager at Cowan Stadium on JBLM Lewis Main. But after 21 years and fewer deployments for JBLM units, the former National Football League player and career civil servant plans to retire on Nov. 5 – his wife Carol’s birthday who passed away last November.

    “It’s an honor to her because she was supposed to have been here for this,” Sistrunk said.

    His wife was the reason he found himself moving to Fort Lewis in 1993 after requesting a transfer from his civilian job at Fort Benning, Ga. In the 21 years since, Sistrunk said the relationships he has built with service members from both Army and Air Force, have made them part of his third family, ranking only behind his blood relatives and the Oakland Raider franchise.

    “It was a big turnaround in my life coming to Fort Lewis because you get a chance to meet all the generals and the colonels and the sergeants major … it’s just been all good to me as a family,” Sistrunk said. He said he has a picture of every general officer he’s worked for, adding to the memories he shared with his Oakland teammates and other friends he made in football.

    Sistrunk played only eight seasons in the NFL, but he made the most of a Hall of Fame career with the Oakland Raiders. His road to the NFL was a unique path since he never played college football and spent three years with the U.S. Marines after graduating from William H. Spencer High School in Columbus, Ga.

    “Not going to college was tough,” Sistrunk said. “My parents just couldn’t afford to send me, so I didn’t go.”

    At 21, Sistrunk joined the Norfolk Neptunes of the Continental Football League, where he was scouted by the Los Angeles Rams. After a practice scrimmage with instate rival Oakland, the Rams traded Sistrunk for a seventh-round pick.

    Sistrunk would move on to start in 98 career games on the defensive line and collect seven fumbles, three interceptions, a Pro Bowl selection in 1974. He also wears a Super Bowl XI championship ring he earned under coach John Madden in a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Jan. 10, 1977 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

    After retiring in 1980, Sistrunk appeared in a few movies and had a brief stint in the world of professional wrestling that included winning the National Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Championships with Michael “P.S.” Hayes on Sept. 27, 1981.

    For the past 33 years, Sistrunk has happily worked in support of physical fitness and intramural sports as an Army civil service employee. While supporting several events organized by the DFMWR like the Fourth of July Freedom Fest, Armed Forces Day and the Western Washington Special Olympics, he said he never feels like a big celebrity.

    “He’s probably one of the best ambassadors for the Army sports program,” said Jerry Weydert, the former JBLM sports director who retired two years ago. “His ability to talk to all ranks was great for the entire MWR program.”

    Many FMWR staffers said what made Sistrunk a key part of the JBLM family was his unfailing support for all programs for the service members.

    All it took was one phone call to have Sistrunk doing everything from driving a forklift to moving benches to prepare for an annual Oktoberfest or speaking to children about the importance of education during the Western Washington Special Olympics events outside Cowan Stadium.

    “Anything we needed for special events, he would get it done,” said Gloria Tomczewski, JBLM special events coordinator.

    Sistrunk arrived at his desk at seven every morning – an hour before the scheduled start to his day, in case a Soldier wanted to come in early to talk football. Many did.

    “Being here, it was so important to me and you have a lot of Soldiers come into this office just to say they’ve met Otis. ‘Will you sign this?’ or ‘Will you sign that?’” Sistrunk said. “You do have a lot of Raider fans and a lot of fans from Seattle, Kansas City or wherever – I talk to everybody. I’m not strictly Raiders.”

    Sistrunk celebrated his November retirement with a party Aug. 6 at Cowan Stadium to take advantage of the summer weather. The outdoor barbecue potluck featured his favorites: ham hocks, ribs, burgers and hot dogs.

    In his final months in civil service, Sistrunk will continue to help with and attend as many sporting events as possible – including the annual Army-Navy flag football game where JBLM’s team has competed against Naval Base Kitsap’s team since 1999.

    He also plans to spend one of his last days in Washington going to Century Link Field in Seattle to see the hometown Seahawks host the Raiders, Nov. 2. While he’s planning to go back to Georgia to assist his sister who has cancer and his brother who recently had a stroke, he’s not in any rush to leave the state of Washington.

    “The hardest thing is going to be for my dog and myself to get on a flight to Georgia,” Sistrunk said. “It’s like getting a divorce. A lot of folks said I’m not going to retire, but I think I’m going to pull the plug.”

    Sistrunk said he will miss his coworkers and all his JBLM friends, not only in DFMWR but also among the different units that have come and gone over the past decades.

    Even though he’s moving back to his home state, Sistrunk said he plans on making regular visits to Washington and JBLM. For one thing, he wants to return for the annual Special Olympics Summer Games event held at Cowan Stadium next May. He has also registered for a few golf tournaments, where he meets former teammates and friends from his football and civil service career.

    “I’ll never say goodbye because I’ll be back,” Sistrunk said
     
  2. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I really liked it - of course - I've always been a Raider fan and dig Otis. Surprised SI hasn't done a where are they now on him. One minor quibble - saying someone had a Hall of Fame career gives the reader the impression that they are in that sport's Hall of Fame. And it could have used a bit more about his late wife since her birthday is the date he chose to retire.
     
  3. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Good piece.
     
  4. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Very good story. Just needs a bit of editing, which I provided hastily and free of charge. :) And I think you could use his age in there, unless I missed it. When people read stories like this, they wonder how old the guy is. At least I do.


    In the past five years, several service members from different units throughout Joint Base Lewis-McChord have asked requested Otis Sistrunk to postpone his eventual retirement until they returned from a deployment.

    Whether the service members’ deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan were for a year or longer, Sistrunk would tell them he would remain the manager at Cowan Stadium on JBLM Lewis Main. But after 21 years and with fewer deployments for JBLM units, the former National Football League player and career civil servant plans to retire on Nov. 5, on his late wife Carol's birthday. She died in November. who passed away last November.

    “It’s an honor to her, because she was supposed to have been here for this,” Sistrunk said.

    His wife was the reason he moved found himself moving to Fort Lewis in 1993 after requesting a transfer from his civilian job at Fort Benning, Ga. In the 21 years since, Sistrunk said the relationships he has built with service members from the both Army and Air Force have made them part of his third family, ranking only behind his blood relatives and the Oakland Raiders franchise.

    “It was a big turnaround in my life coming to Fort Lewis, because you get a chance to meet all the generals and the colonels and the sergeants major … it’s just been all good to me as a family,” Sistrunk said.

    He said he has a picture of every general officer he’s worked for, adding to the memories he shared with his Oakland teammates and other friends he made in football.

    Sistrunk played only eight seasons in the NFL, but he made the most of a successful Hall of Fame career with the Oakland Raiders.

    Sistrunk's road to the NFL was a unique path since he did not play college football and spent three years with the U.S. Marines after graduating from William H. Spencer High in Columbus, Ga.

    “Not going to college was tough,” Sistrunk said. “My parents just couldn’t afford to send me, so I didn’t go.”

    At 21, Sistrunk joined the Norfolk Neptunes of the Continental Football League, where he was scouted by the Los Angeles Rams. After a practice scrimmage with instate rival Oakland, the Rams traded Sistrunk for a seventh-round pick. When/how did they sign/acquire him???

    Sistrunk went would move on to start 98 career games on the defensive line, making the Pro Bowl in 1974 and collecting seven fumbles and three interceptions (sacks???). He also wears a Super Bowl XI championship ring he earned under coach John Madden after in a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 10, 1977 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

    After retiring in 1980, Sistrunk appeared in a few movies and had a brief stint in the world of professional wrestling, where he won the National Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Championships with Michael “P.S.” Hayes on Sept. 27, 1981.

    For the past 33 years, Sistrunk has happily worked in support of physical fitness and intramural sports as an Army civil-service employee. While supporting several events organized by the DFMWR, such as like the Fourth of July Freedom Fest, Armed Forces Day and the Western Washington Special Olympics, he said he never feels like a big celebrity.

    “He’s probably one of the best ambassadors for the Army sports program,” said Jerry Weydert, who retired as JBLM sports director two years ago. “His ability to talk to all ranks was great for the entire MWR program.”

    Many FMWR staffers said what made Sistrunk a key part of the JBLM family was his unfailing support for all programs for the service members.

    All it took was one phone call to have Sistrunk doing everything from driving a forklift to moving benches to prepare for an annual Oktoberfest or speaking to children about the importance of education during the Western Washington Special Olympics events outside Cowan Stadium.

    “Anything we needed for special events, he would get it done,” said Gloria Tomczewski, JBLM special events coordinator.

    Sistrunk arrived at his desk at 7 seven every morning – an hour before he was scheduled to start his day, in case a soldier wanted to come in early to talk football. Many did.

    “Being here, it was so important to me, and you have a lot of soldiers come into this office just to say they’ve met Otis. ‘Will you sign this?’ or ‘Will you sign that?’” Sistrunk said. “You do have a lot of Raider fans and a lot of fans from Seattle, Kansas City or wherever – I talk to everybody. I’m not strictly Raiders.”

    Sistrunk celebrated his November retirement with a party Aug. 6 at Cowan Stadium to take advantage of the summer weather. The outdoor barbecue potluck featured his favorites: ham hocks, ribs, burgers and hot dogs.

    In his final months of civil service, Sistrunk will continue to help with and attend as many sporting events as possible – including the annual Army-Navy flag football game, where JBLM’s team has competed against Naval Base Kitsap’s team since 1999.

    He also plans to spend one of his last days in Washington at Century Link Field in Seattle to see the Seahawks host the Raiders on Nov. 2. While he’s planning to go back to Georgia to help his sister, who has cancer, and his brother, who recently had a stroke, he’s not in any rush to leave the state of Washington.

    “The hardest thing is going to be for my dog and myself to get on a flight to Georgia,” Sistrunk said. “It’s like getting a divorce. A lot of folks said I’m not going to retire, but I think I’m going to pull the plug.”

    Sistrunk said he will miss his coworkers and all of his JBLM friends, not only in DFMWR but also among the different units that have come and gone over the decades.

    Even though he’s moving back to his home state, Sistrunk said he plans to make regular visits to Washington and JBLM. For one thing, he wants to return for the annual Special Olympics Summer Games at Cowan Stadium next May. He has also registered for a few golf tournaments, where he meets former teammates and friends from his football and civil service career.

    “I’ll never say goodbye because I’ll be back,” Sistrunk said
     
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