Jim Plunkett won a pair of Super Bowls with the Raiders in the 1980s, taking home the MVP award at Super Bowl XV. He played 15 years in the league, won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford, and is the only eligible two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The San Jose Mercury News recently caught up with Plunkett, and he opened up about the relentless physical toil that playing football took on his life. He was sacked 380 times in his NFL career, though hit plenty more times than that, and said that he lives in constant pain.
“My life sucks,” said Plunkett, 69. “It’s no fun being in this body right now. Everything hurts.”
Plunkett takes six pills every morning and seven more every night for his various ailments. His body is so broken after 18 surgeries that all he can do is play golf, which requires a painkiller. He told the newspaper that he recently was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which comes with facial paralysis and throbbing headaches. His wife said Plunkett might be starting to show signs of traumatic brain injury. Several of Plunkett’s teammates and friends, such as Dwight Clark, have struggled with head trauma or ALS and died in their 60s. Plunkett knows it might be coming for him too.
“ALS and they were gone in a few years,” Plunkett said quietly.
“I don’t know what there is to do,” Plunkett said. “If it happens, it happens. I don’t know how you stop it at this point.”
As scarred as Plunkett is, he says he wants the NFL to do what it can to start making football safer so the sport doesn’t disappear. He’s helped raise money for research on brain trauma in high school athletes and called for the NFL to do more to support retirees.