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Lionel Aldridge: NAMI’s Super Bowl Connection

Lionel Aldridge

It doesn’t matter if you root for the New Orleans Saints or the Indianapolis Colts in next week’s Super Bowl, NAMI already has its Super Bowl hero.

Lionel Aldridge, who was a defensive star on the historic Green Bay Packers team of the 1960s coached by Vince Lombardi, played in the first two Super Bowls. Every year NAMI honors him at its national convention by awarding the Lionel Aldridge Award for courage, leadership and service to a person living with mental illness.

Lionel played two years with the San Diego Chargers. After retiring in 1973, he began a promising career as a television sports commentator, only to be stricken by schizophrenia. For a time, he was homeless, before fighting his way to recovery. He became an outspoken mental health advocate and speaker at NAMI conferences around the country.

He was born on Valentine’s Day and died in 1998 two days before his 57th birthday. Three weeks before, the Denver Broncos upset the heavily favored Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XIII. The game was played in San Diego, the city where he played his last two seasons, and broadcast on NBC, the television network for whom he had once analyzed games.

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