Friday morning, a few of those celebrities took time out for an autograph signing at the Legends at Sparks Marina shopping center. Fans and shoppers were asked to bring canned goods to donate to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
Former UNLV standout and NBA all star Larry Johnson, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell, long-time 49er linebacker Darin Jordan and another NFL linebacker, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, all made their way to Legends to promote the Food Bank of Northern Nevada and mingle with fans.
“I enjoy meeting great people, meeting the fans you wouldn’t otherwise see,” said Bell, a former University of Minnesota all-American, as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans at the Legends Converse store. “This my way of giving back. It’s nice to meet people one-one-one. You don’t get to rub elbows when you’re playing in front of 65,000 fans. You don’t get to run up into the stands and shake everybody’s hands. So this is a way to meet them.”
Williamson had similar sentiments.
“It’s nice to be in a position to help other people,” he said. “The fans made me who I am. Fans are important and they come in all shapes sizes and colors.”
It is certainly nice to hear sports fans are appreciated. I sometimes wonder how much the stars of today appreciate their fans. If our love of sports was further down the totem pole on our list of priorities, there would be no multimillion dollar contracts and cushy lifestyles for the professional athlete.
Fans deserve the appreciation of the athletes they adore. Larry Johnson won a national championship at UNLV 20 years ago, but there were at least a few of his fans at Legends Friday all decked out in their UNLV garb, just waiting for a chance to get an autograph and shake his hand or share a story.
Many fans like to share stories with their favorite athletes. While that might get old for some in the public eye, the former 49er standout Jordan said he likes that.
“I love it when they ask, ‘remember when…’ You know they are true fans,” Jordan said. “I try to remember if I did that, but they remember. They aren’t just there for an autograph, but for what you’re a part of and what you did as a person.”
Jordan added that Reno has a special place in his heart, pointing out he’d been coming to the Truckee Meadows for nearly 20 years for various events and fundraisers. He stressed this weekend’s Legends of the Game tour stop in Reno is a good one.
“This event has integrity. Reno has been hit hard by the economy. I like that the money we raise and the food donated stays here. It doesn’t go to some big conglomerate,” Jordan said.
Regardless of how or why Johnson, Bell, Williamson and Jordan came out to the Legends Friday, they did good. They put smiles on the faces of northern Nevada fans and made their memories mean just a little bit more with an in-person exchange. None of the former athletes had to come and donate their time at Legends Friday, but they all did. They did more than they had to and they gave back to the community.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org