Virgen's View: Saul recalled fondly

Rich Saul will be remembered for his work as a football player, as he should. He was a great center for the Rams.

But he was so much more than the player.

Saul passed away Sunday. He was 64. He had been battling leukemia since 2003, the Orange County Register reported. Saul's wife told the Register he came home April 2 for hospice care after he stayed at Hoag Hospital for 10 days. The leukemia had recently progressed to his brain, the Register reported.

What a remarkable man. He had this disease and not only did he fight against it, he performed charitable acts for cancer awareness.

He was such a humble man. He never liked to talk about himself, especially when it came to football or even his bout with cancer. He always wanted to hear how you were doing.

He fought against the disease with an impressive positive attitude. It was so refreshing to see.

I am grateful that I was able to meet Saul, who lived in Newport Beach. I saw him at the Irrelevant Week Lowsman Trophy Banquet every year.

I wrote about him in 2007 when he received the Patient Courage Award from the American Cancer Society.

The award is given to the cancer patient or survivor who has shown exceptional courage in the fight with cancer, and who typically helps the American Cancer Society reach out and motivate others in the fight against cancer.

"I get a lot of satisfaction in giving," Saul said after being honored. "That's where I get most of my satisfaction. It's not the Pro Bowls. It's because God allowed me to live another year."

Back then I told Saul that my father, Julian, died of leukemia when he was 50 and I was 18. I told him how I struggled with writing about the topic of cancer because it was so personal for me.

Saul cried with me and told me he was sorry for my loss. He gave me inspiration to live life to the fullest and reminded me about what a great man my father was.

He understood. Throughout his final years he had seen cancer survivors and others who had died from the disease. He consoled families, uplifted them, encouraged them to press on. He also rooted for those who were survivors, despite his plight.

Truly remarkable.

His name brought attention to the charity work he did. But it was his actual attitude and personality that touched so many lives and gave so many hope.

Was he a great player? Absolutely. Saul, who starred at Michigan State, was one of only three NFL players who earned Pro Bowl honors every season from 1976 through 1981. He was a Ram from 1970-81. He became the starting center in 1975. He never played center in college.

Saul was also a great man. That can be seen on the testimonials provided online at And, thankfully, it was also seen in my life.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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