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Kirk Mee Tournament attracts big turnout of NFL greats

Yesterday's stars reflect on today's paychecks

May 11, 2012

Football greats, from left, Ken Houston, Mark Moseley, David Fulcher and Louis Breeden were among the celebrities in attendance at the Wilmington College/Kirk Mee NFL Celebrity Golf Tournament.

Football greats, from left, Ken Houston, Mark Moseley, David Fulcher and Louis Breeden were among the celebrities in attendance at the Wilmington College/Kirk Mee NFL Celebrity Golf Tournament.

PHOTO GALLERY

A sunshine-kissed day provided the backdrop for the 16th annual Wilmington College/Kirk Mee NFL Celebrity Golf Tournament at Snow Hill Country Club Friday afternoon.

The team of former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech, Greg Abbott, Wayne Bowman, Sharon Sims and Bob Buerger won the 18-team event by firing 14-under par 56.

The event attracted football greats like NFL Hall of Famer Ken Houston, MVP place kicker Mark Moseley and Cincinnati Bengals greats David Fulcher and Louis Breeden — players who would have retired as millionaires if they were playing on today’s salary structure. What they did get from their NFL experiences was an appreciation for hard work.

Houston retired in 1980 after playing his way to 10 Pro Bowls. The quintessential safety earned $200,000 in his top-paying season, a sliver of what he would earn in 2012. He said today’s gaudy salaries are intriguing, but they do not inspire regret.

“Not really. I took life for what it is,” Houston said. “I appreciate the guys today getting all they can get. I just hope that they handle it where it will last them for a lifetime. I don’t care how much you make in a year — there are only certain things you can buy in life. We were fortunate back then because we had jobs in the real world. I taught school, worked in parks and recreation in Houston. I also went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling. That ended up being a big focal point in my career. I was in alternative counseling for over 20 years.”

Fulcher retired in 1994 after redefining the safety position. Fast enough to cover wide receivers and strong enough to take down walls, Fulcher was a trail-blazing defensive back that connected one era to another.

“These guys are making some serious money today,” Fulcher said. “I was a third-rounder and my signing bonus was $100,000. Third-round players today are getting $2 million or $3 million. We can all say we wish we had played a little bit later, but it is what it is. I have been in banking and finances. I also have my own foundation that benefits people affected by multiple sclerosis. My wife Judy was diagnosed with it 15 years ago. Also under the David Fulcher umbrella I have MANA, which stands for Mentoring Against Negative Actions. We teach life skills in the Hamilton County Justice Center. I’ve been doing that for the last three years. It’s important to receive, but it’s just as important to give back.”

Moseley earned $60,000 and received a $20,000 bonus in 1982 when he became the only kicker to be named league MVP. Money, he said, was not what attracted him to football. Today he is co-owner of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a restaurant franchise with more than 1,000 locations in 48 states.

“We played because we loved to play football. It was a good living, but it wasn’t like it is today with these guys making millions and millions,” Moseley said. “I am making more money today, but football set the table. The notoriety that I got and staying in the Washington, D.C., community helped. This is the 25th year that I’ve been out of football, and I think just as many people in the Washington, D.C., area know me today than when I was playing — maybe more.”

Breeden was a lights-out defensive back for the Bengals from 1977 to 1987. His 102-yard interception return of a Dan Fouts pass is still the longest play in team history. His paychecks, however, paled in comparison to the money being doled out to modern men in Bengal stripes.

“You can’t go back, so I don’t worry about that. Most of the guys I played with are working, but some of the guys aren’t able to work,” Breeden said. “I owned an advertising specialty company for 11 years, and now I’m brokering electricity. I know some guys bemoan what the guys are making now, but I am happy for any guy who can make any dime he can make in the National Football League, because longevity is short. If they weren’t getting it, then management would keep it all. The players are taking the licks and the punishment. Let them have the money.”