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GARY BALLMAN, 63, FORMER FOOTBALL PRO

GARY BALLMAN, 63, FORMER FOOTBALL PRO

Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Author/Byline: Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: Business
Page: 13B
Gary Ballman had to be tough when dodging burly linemen on the football field. But at home, that melted away.

“He was a cuddly teddy bear,” said Mr. Ballman’s wife, Judi. “People always think football players are so tough. But when he came home, he was a pushover.”

Mr. Ballman died May 20 of a massive heart attack at his home after collapsing while mowing the lawn. He was 63.

In addition to his family, Mr. Ballman’s passion was fishing, so much so that he wouldn’t camp or live anywhere he couldn’t fish.

“When he was traveling, he always had his fishing rod,” Judi Ballman said.

Mr. Ballman played halfback and wide receiver from 1962 to 1974 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

With the Steelers from 1962 to 1966, Mr. Ballman had 64 kickoff returns for 1,711 yards, including one that went 93 yards against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 17, 1963. He made the Pro Bowl his last two seasons with the team.

“He had a wonderful career,” Judi Ballman said. “He only wishes he was 30 years younger because he’d be a multimillionaire.”

Mr. Ballman played for Minnesota in Super Bowl VIII in 1974, then was forced to retire because of his participation in the players’ strike later that year, Judi Ballman said.

He then worked for the National Football League Players Association – the players’ union – until moving to Littleton in 1979, when Mr. Ballman began work as a Simplex Building Products salesman.

“He considered it his first real job,” Judi Ballman said of her husband of 43 years. “He’s always been a natural-born salesman.”

After leaving Simplex in 1989, Mr. Ballman started Ballman Enterprises, which sold a variety of building products. Mr. Ballman retired in July 2002.

Mr. Ballman never lost his passion for football. For the past 24 years, the Ballmans attended every University of Colorado home football game, and Mr. Ballman always made an effort to respond to his fan mail.

“He just felt very strongly that if they took the time to write to him that he had the responsibility to take the time to sign the cards and make sure they got back to the people,” Judi Ballman said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Ballman is survived by his stepmother, Leona Ballman, of Port Hope, Mich.; two sons, Todd Ballman, of Centennial, and John Ballman, of Aurora; a brother, Kurt William Ballman, of Rodney, Mich.; a sister, Karen Parent, of Detroit; and two granddaughters, Sarah and Katie.

“(Katie’s) favorite place was on her grandpa’s lap,” -Judi Ballman said. “He worshipped those girls.”

Services were held May 25 at St. -Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Aurora.

Donations may be sent to the Scott and Gary Ballman Foundation at the University of Colorado, Box 1140, Boulder, CO 80309.

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