1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Ex-Raider Inspires Paralyzed Man

Discussion in 'Football: NFL, College, High School' started by BobFinn*, Feb 4, 2002.

  1. BobFinn*

    BobFinn* Contributing Member

    Feb 10, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Monday February 4 6:42 AM ET
    Ex-Raider Inspires Paralyzed Man
    By MARTIN GRIFFITH, Associated Press Writer

    RENO, Nev. (AP) - Former Oakland Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano's prodding and Super Bowl ring helped put a 35-year-old man from Livermore, Calif., back on his feet.

    With Villapiano and hundreds of people cheering him on at a casino Super Bowl party Sunday, Mitch Oellrich got out of his wheelchair and took his first unaided steps since a diving accident in 1999. Previously, Oellrich moved with the aid of crutches and a body harness.

    He returned to his wheelchair later and faces more rehabilitation to walk longer distances.

    The emotional ceremony came only 21/2 months after Oellrich's chance encounter with Villapiano at a tailgate party Nov. 18 in Oakland changed his life.

    After the Raiders-San Diego Chargers game, Villapiano asked the wheelchair-bound Oellrich about his condition.

    A discouraged Oellrich discontinued his rehabilitation in May 2000 and did not go back until after the meeting with Villapiano.

    ``I really couldn't have done this without Phil's encouragement,'' said Oellrich, a die-hard Raiders' fan since the 1970s. ``He told me, `You're a Raider and you can do it.'''

    In an impulsive act, Villapiano gave a discouraged Oellrich his Super Bowl ring to motivate him not only to resume his rehabilitation, but to double his workouts so he could walk again.

    Oellrich protested, but the former All-Pro insisted that he could only return the ring once he could walk.

    Since then, Villapiano has phoned Oellrich at least twice a week to encourage him in his four-hour daily workouts.

    Oellrich returned the ring Sunday after taking about 10 steps - with the help of a cane - across the stage at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino and going immediately back into his wheelchair.

    ``I love this thing, but I love it even more now,'' Villapiano said while gazing at the ring. ``It really did some good. What he did is more important than winning the Super Bowl. I don't think I've ever been more touched in my life.''

    Villapiano, who played for the Raiders from 1971 to 1980 and for the Buffalo Bills from 1980 to 1984, won the ring with the Raiders' 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the 1977 Super Bowl.

    While Oellrich faces more rehabilitation, Sunday's first steps represented a major accomplishment for a man whose doctors once doubted that he would walk again.

    Before Sunday, he was only able to walk short distances with crutches and a body harness. Now, he can walk with a cane and no harness, which is used to prevent falls.

    ``I feel so good. I didn't want him to fail,'' said Villapiano, who now lives in Rumson, N.J. ``He has a lot more work, but he's on his feet now.''

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!

    Upgrade Now