Buffalo Rallies Around Former Bills Linebacker — And Cleveland Native — Darryl Talley

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At 54, former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley "suspects collisions from playing linebacker for 14 NFL seasons, a dozen with the Buffalo Bills, have damaged his brain. He’s often depressed beyond the point of tears."

Such is the image painted by Buffalo News writer Tim Graham yesterday, whose portrait of the Super Bowl-era Bills player describes a mortal man wracked with "ominous mental, physical and financial difficulties seemingly rooted in playing football."

It's a widespread problem for retired NFL players, and Talley has been vaulted to the forefront of the discussion. More and more, stakeholders and fans are discussing mental and physical problems after a career playing football — including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma that can only be diagnosed in autopsy — but Talley says the NFL and the Bills organization have "discard[ed] him and den[ied] that he’s too disabled to work anymore." That's not an uncommon concern among retired athletes living in pain.

After Graham shared Talley's story, Bills fans — who share the type of visceral fandom known to Browns fans here in Cleveland — rallied around one of their own. A GoFundMe page has already picked up more than $40,000 in contributions to Talley from fans struck by Graham's article. 
Talley began a lifelong love of football in East Cleveland, playing fullback and linebacker at Shaw High School in the mid to late 1970s.

From former Plain Dealer writer Bill Lubinger:
The boy had every legitimate reason why East Cleveland would be the place where football ended for him.

He was tall but too thin, especially for linebacker.

At Shaw, he didn't play for a high school to which college recruiters necessarily made a special visit.

And, because of injuries, he played in just 10 varsity games. As a senior, he was only able to suit up for the last three after breaking an ankle in summer workouts. 

"He was determined to do," said his father, John Talley, who still lives in East Cleveland with his wife, Jacqueline, "whatever he wanted to do."

Darryl Talley starred in track and football at Shaw in the late 1970s and worked as a lifeguard at old Forbes Pool next to the school.

Rival schools were well aware of his name, to the point where there was almost a mystique about him. But the injuries robbed him of a varsity football career that could have had all the big-name schools swooping in for a peek.

"When he came back," recalled Rod Williams, who played safety behind Talley, "he made like 30 tackles that first game." 

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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