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Dave Rowe Back In The Broadcast Booth After Beating Death

Friday, September 19, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 12:02 AM, under , , , ,

Athens, GA (Sept 19, 2008) - Make no mistake about it, Dave Rowe is a big man. At 6' 7", and a booming voice to match, there is no doubt when the "big guy" is in the room. A journeyman defensive tackle out of Penn State, his NFL career spanned 1967-1978 and included stops in New Orleans (1967-1970), New England (1971-1973), San Diego (1974), Oakland (1975-1977), and Baltimore (1978). it was during his tenure in Oakland, under Coach John Madden, that he (pictured left) was the starting defensive tackle on the 1976 team that won Oakland's first Super Bowl Championship. It is hard to imagine that man, so full of life, came close to death in 2007, causing him to be forced out of broadcasting the game he loves so much.

In April 2007, the kid that Joe Paterno recruited from Deptford Township High School in New Jersey, went into the hospital for rotater cuff surgery. But something went wrong. He developed a staph infection. "I had to go in for five more surgeries over the next nine days," Rowe told me before the September 6 game between Central Michigan University and the University of Georgia. Sitting in the press box at Sanford Stadium, Dave Rowe was feeling like he had a new lease on life.

"Chris, I was dying," he told me. There was definitely something different about him as we talked. He seemed calmer and more reflective on this day as he was stepping back into the broadcast booth with Bob Rathbun for the FSN South broadcast of the game. For me, I was quite happily surprised when I arrived at the production truck that morning and saw his name as the color analyst on the games production memo. I had not seen him since the SEC Championship Preview Show in December 2006, as the complications from surgery forced him into what looked like retirement before the start of the 2007 season.

Dave Rowe, with FSN play-by-play partner Bob Rathbun in the background, goes through his notes preparing for their broadcast.
Photograph Copyright 2008 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

"I was out of work for for 55 days trying to recover," he continued. This is something that was hard to fathom for a man who has never stopped working since he retired from the National Football League after the 1978 season. Immediately after football, he stepped into the broadcast booth for NBC Sports, where he worked through the 1988 season. He had worked with Jefferson Pilot Sports/Lincoln Financial Sports from 1995 through the end of the 2006 season.

"After I got home from the hospital, I had to wear this weird looking pump thing on my shoulder to draw the infection out," he said. "But it just was not working. One day I looked at my wife and told her I was dying. She said 'is it that heavy?' 'No,' I replied, 'I am literally dying.'" To hear these words from a man known for his always upbeat personality and his willingness to laugh at himself took me aback, but I continued to listen as he told me his story.

Dave Rowe, just being Dave before a 2006 broadcast..
Photograph Copyright 2006 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

"My Doctor and his wife are good friends of mine. When he would come home from the hospital, she would ask 'How's Dave', and he could only reply 'Not well.' When he would leave in the morning she would admonish him that 'you better take good care of Dave!"

"You know the only reason I am here today?," Dave continued. I had a feeling I knew what was coming. "Prayer. The Power of prayer," he said. "I have no doubt at all that if not for the prayers of my family and friends, I would not be here today." I think he did not know how I would respond to this, and I think he was surprised when I replied with a simple "I totally understand." I shared with him the story of how the healing power of prayer helped my daughter totally recover from a debilitating illness. I understood exactly what he was talking about.

Before we finished our conversation, I asked him why he did not just stay retired and enjoy time with his grandkids that he adores. "I get to spend a lot of time with them, but this is something I really love to do. There is nothing like it," he replied.

With that we shook hands and went to work. I felt I got to know the man in a way that I had not done since I first worked with him in the fall of 1995. Facing death changes a person in many ways, and beating it keeps your joys in tact, in fact even magnifies them. Dave Rowe got this second chance and he is not going to let anything pass him by.

Editors Note: Did you know that more people die from staph infections then AIDS every year in the United States? You can find out more about staph infections (properly called Healthcare-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)) from the Centers for Disease Control website.

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