Real pros tackle game day

Donation nets woman a visit from NFL vets

Staff WriterDecember 10, 2007 

— When NFL greats Lawrence Taylor and Keith Byars arrived at Cindy Elder's house Sunday, they had no clue they were replacing goats and llamas.

For the past three years, Elder, a regional director for the video game retailer GameStop, has donated an annual lump sum to a charity that buys livestock for poor families in South America and Africa.

"Usually, I donate llamas and goats," Elder said.

This year, the 44-year-old's pledge to donate more than $10,000 went to the The V Foundation for Cancer Research and bought her an afternoon of football-watching with former New York Giants linebacker Taylor and Byars, a fullback who played for the Philadelphia Eagles.

She found out Wednesday that her pledge had won an online charity auction sponsored by Miller Lite. On Sunday afternoon, she and a host of friends and colleagues spent three hours watching the Giants-Eagles game with Taylor and Byars.

"He's legendary," Elder said of Taylor, who played college ball at UNC-Chapel Hill. "He's the greatest player at his position of all time."

He's also a pretty regular guy, as Taylor, 48, showed Sunday by helping to take out the trash.

"That's my job at home," he said of trash duty.

Though Taylor played college football in Chapel Hill, Sunday appeared to be his first visit to the southern Wake County town of Fuquay-Varina.

"Cary I've heard of," Taylor said.

For much of the game, Taylor and Byars, 44, sat on a couch nibbling fried chicken and barbecue while watching their former teams struggle.

"They're both terrible," Byars said at one point during the second half of what turned out to be a 16-13 Giants victory.

Both men now live in Florida, where Taylor said he spends most of his time playing golf.

"I miss the paycheck," Taylor said when asked if he missed playing.

Except for a halftime autograph session and lots of picture-taking, most of Elder's guests appeared content to bask in the glow of the former athletes.

GameStop employee Jim Johnson, 48, who was courageous enough to wear a Washington Redskins jersey to the party, asked Taylor what running back was the hardest to tackle during his career.

James Wilder, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, Taylor said.

Late in the second quarter the two former stars stepped out on the back deck, and Taylor lit up a cigar. The discussion turned to the modern NFL.

"There's no such thing as defense anymore," Taylor said.

"I'd have a tough time naming 10 starting quarterbacks I'd get in the huddle with," added Byars.

Byars and Taylor are forever linked by the division rivalry they helped fuel during the 1980s. Taylor said he'll never forget the time Byars knocked out Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson with a block.

As for his former college team, Taylor said he hasn't been back to watch a game in a while. He said UNC-Chapel Hill coach Butch Davis has the name recognition to recruit star players.

"That's a guy who can go into Florida and bring out some studs," Taylor said.

With planes to catch and no more footballs to sign, Taylor and Byars began heading for the exits with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Would Elder choose the football stars over the llamas and goats next year?

"It would be kind of fun to do it again next year," she said.

david.bracken@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4548

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