Matuszak Remembered at Funeral : Friends Recall Former Raider Star for His Charity Work

Associated Press

A close friend and teammate of John Matuszak said at the former football player's funeral Wednesday he will remember the tearful talks he had with the man who called him "little buddy."

Matuszak, a native of suburban Oak Creek, Wis., died of heart failure Saturday in Burbank at 38. About 600 people attended a funeral service at the Catholic church Matuszak had attended as a child.

The service was marked by eulogies from friend Mickey Marvin, a former Raider guard, and Al Davis, the Raiders' owner.

Matuszak was a defensive lineman with the Raiders from 1976 to 1981, before the team moved from Oakland to Los Angeles, and spent the 1982 season in Los Angeles on the injured-reserve list. He played on two Super Bowl championship teams.

Marvin, Matuszak's roommate for four years, said his family loved Matuszak, as did the children at a North Carolina camp the two men ran.

"He was so precious to those children," he said.

Marvin said he will remember the many emotional late-night talks and prayers the roommates shared.

"We got down on our knees together many times," he said, occasionally choked with emotion.

They went head to head on the practice field for six years, and Matuszak usually came out on top, Marvin said. But he added that Matuszak often wrapped his big arm around him and said, "Little buddy, you're doing better."

Davis said that Matuszak's dedication and devotion to the Raiders has earned him a place in the team's history, even though he likely will not be enshrined in the National Football League Hall of Fame.

"He wore those colors (the Raiders' silver and black) with poise, and he wore those colors with a charismatic pride," Davis said.

Davis also recalled an incident that illustrated Matuszak's free-wheeling side.

The 6-foot-8, 280-pound lineman once approached a California tavern with a teammate while the two were wearing their uniforms. Davis said he reprimanded them and the next time he saw them heading for the tavern, they were wearing tuxedoes.

Father Joseph Sukup, pastor of St. Matthew's Catholic Church, said those who really knew Matuszak will remember him for his loving heart, not the antics that made the headlines.

"They will remember him for the person that he was, a person touched by human frailty like all of us," he said.

His family came first in his life, and his work with handicapped children was important to Matuszak, Sukup said.

Two of Matuszak's brothers died as children of cystic fibrosis and Sukup said that Matuszak often donated his time to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He was also known for his visits to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin here.

One woman at the funeral tearfully showed a picture of Matuszak with her son. She said he frequently visited her son, who sat next to her in a wheelchair at the service.

Matuszak's body is to be cremated.

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