Helping others and giving back to the community is something that former Lions’ tight end Rob Rubick has made a priority dating back 32 years when he first entered the league.
He participated in a basketball team facilitated by a local butcher in Rochester, Michigan. The team was comprised of current and former Detroit Lions players that would tour Michigan and fundraise for schools with specific needs.
“He would organize these games, help schools make money and he would bring his merchandise and sell at the game, and he would split the money up with the guys,” said Rubick.
“Back then it was a different. Guys were making $30,000-40,000 a year, not millions, so they took a little bit of pocket cash in the wintertime and they were out in the community.”
Rubick was so dedicated, in fact, he took over the cause in 1986 when the original organizer stepped down.
He, along with former Lions’ All-Pro wide receiver Herman Moore and former fullback Cory Schlesinger, have since seen much success with their charitable contributions.
One of this year’s lead sponsors is A Forever Recovery, a rehabilitation facility which offers individual treatment to help overcome addiction. AFR focuses on partnering with organizations that put a priority on encouraging smart and healthy choices for young adults, to encourage a brighter future.
“We do this for communities that are looking to raise money. It could be for their booster club, it could be for firemen, policemen, we had one a few weeks ago in Cedar Springs where a teacher had cancer and they’re raising money to help with his bill,” said Rubick.
“We’ve done really well this year. We played at Manchester High School outside Ann Arbor and they raised $18,000, in Cedar Spring they raised $12,000, so it really can work and it’s a chance for the community to get out and see these Lions players up close.”
Rubick says he likes to think of their team as the Harlem Globetrotters “without the talent.” They play two 30-minute, non-competitive halves, getting kids involved, and then spend 30-40 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with those who came out to support the cause.
It’s not about money, or anything self-serving, it’s about getting out in the community and getting fans an opportunity to meet these guys up close and personal in an environment they wouldn’t otherwise get.
“They’re doing it because it allows them to get out into the community and really meet the fan base and that’s what’s so wonderful about it and now with the social media, I just see it all over Twitter, all over Facebook,” said Rubick.
“You look at someone like Bill Bentley, and Bill’s been playing for a couple of years with me and he’s really creating a nice fanbase because he does such a nice job at the games. He talks to the people, he takes hundreds of pictures, he gets them involved in the game.”
Players like Bentley, defensive end Devin Taylor, linebacker Tahir Whitehead and running back Theo Riddick are some of the current Lions who participate.
Rubick says he commends those guys for coming out on a weekly basis, doing it for no other reason than to support the cause.
“It really gets them in touch with the community because even though there’s 70,000 people at a football game, they’re still not rubbing elbows so to speak with us,” said Rubick. “They’re still separated, but when you get out here at the game and these players are sitting by you and they come and get pictures with you and shake your hand, it means a lot.”