Those who know about football know that Don Strock was one of the National Football League's great backup quarterbacks. That is not a slight.
Mr. Strock spent 16 years in the league, 14 with the Miami Dolphins playing behind glamour guys like Bob Griese and Dan Marino, both hall-of-famers. Games like the 1982 AFC Divisional Playoff tilt with San Diego, where Mr. Strock came off the bench to spark a historic 38-point rally with four touchdown passes, kept him in demand and highly paid, though he rarely started. He went to three Super Bowls with the Dolphins and won one championship ring.
For the last 26 years, Mr. Strock has shared the spotlight in another sport as well, lending his name -- and a 10-handicap -- to the Don Strock Diabetes Classic, the annual celebrity-amateur charity golf tournament sponsored by some of the produce industry's top growers and suppliers and benefiting the University of Miami's Diabetes Research Institute.
This year's event tees off May 13 at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club in Miami. NFL players past and present will join Mr. Strock and dozens of amateur duffers in a post-luncheon shotgun start. A cocktail reception and awards dinner will follow. There will also be a silent auction featuring NFL memorabilia including an autographed helmet from football legend Johnny Unitas.
"When I first came to town with the Dolphins, I was asked to play in so many tournaments -- heart association, lung association, cancer association -- you name it, I was asked to play in it," Mr. Strock told The Produce News. "Three, four times a week, I was playing in the off-season. I wanted to focus my efforts. When Bruce Fishbein with The Produce Connection approached me about hosting a tournament for diabetes, I was impressed with what they were doing and decided that was the way to go. Diabetes affects just about every organ in your body - that put everything in a capsule for me. If we find a cure for diabetes, we'll find a cure for a lot of other things at the same time."
Tournament Chairman Mr. Fishbein launched the classic when he found out that the young son of friend and industry colleague Oscar Sotolongo had been diagnosed with diabetes. Other colleagues from the industry joined the effort, Mr. Strock came aboard, and 26 years later, more than $2 million has been raised for the Diabetes Research Institute.
"The produce people are just unbelievable -- God bless them. They all come out and all support it," Mr. Strock said. "A lot of our players come from the produce people. You can tell some of them [are not golfers], but one day a year, they play golf. It's a funny thing: You see somebody [playing poorly] in a tourney and wonder, 'Why is he here?' And he'll tell you his daughter has diabetes, or his mom, and that he is out here trying to help find a cure. So take mercy on our golf course, guys."
Tournament sponsors are C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Six L's Packing Co., American Fruit & Produce Corp., The Produce Connection, M&R Produce Distributors, Top Tomato Co., The Oppenheimer Group, Florida Mushroom Inc., Freedom Fresh, Sunkist, Sierra Produce, FreshPoint A One A Produce & Dairy, Southern Specialties, Fresh Quest Inc., Dole, Riverside Fruits & Vegetables, Tropical Shipping, Capital Produce Distributors, Sheds Plus and Taylor Farms.
The roster of celebrity players will not be announced until the morning of the tournament, but past NFL participants have included Dan Marino, Kim Bokamper, George Mira, Dwight Stevenson, Bernie Kosar, Tony Nathan, Gino Toretta, Jim Kiick and Nat Moore.
Sponsorship packages (starting at $300) and player spots ($350) are still available.
"We haven't overpriced it," Mr. Strock said. "We try to keep it down as low as we possibly can; our price has been about the same for 26 years."
Nevertheless, last year's event raised about $175,000.
For more information, visit www.drif.org or call the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation at 800/321-3437.
The Diabetes Research Institute, a center of excellence at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, is recognized as a world leader in cure- focused research.
Since its inception in the early 1970s, the institute has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes research, pioneering many of the techniques used in islet transplantation. The institute is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production.