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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Jim Otto — Football legend tackles a new opponent

Jim OttoJim Otto personifies the term "survivor." A member of the original Oakland Raiders of 1960, Otto played in 210 consecutive games, 308 all told, over a legendary career that took him to the Hall of Fame. Now Otto still commutes regularly from his home in the Auburn foothills to his job in Oakland as director of special projects for the Raiders.

On his days off, he hunts alligator in Florida, bear in Alaska, or flies with wife Sally and their 10 grandkids to Hawaii for swimming and bird watching.

"I sit out on the balcony in the morning in my fancy pajama shorts, overlooking the ocean, and the grandkids bring me coffee," Otto says. "It can't get much better than that."

To get to this point, Otto survived 40 surgeries, including operations to implant eight artificial knees and two artificial shoulders. He fought off three life-threatening infections stemming from the joint replacements. For one six-month period, he lived without a right knee, waiting for a massive infection to clear before the knee could be replaced.

But none of that pain compared to the agony he and his wife suffered in 1997. That fall their daughter, Jennifer, a 39-year-old mother of four, died suddenly from a blood clot.

The next blow landed in the summer of 2002, when Otto was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"My life hasn't been 100 percent golden over the last six years, since my daughter died," Otto says. "But I'll guarantee you I'm very, very pleased I'm here. I'm very, very fortunate to be here with Sally every day. I'm also lucky that I've been able to help other guys who have prostate cancer. I've met some great men, including my doctor, Ralph de Vere White, at UC Davis Cancer Center."

Otto, a man who played in Super Bowl II with a dislocated knee, broken fingers, broken ribs, a broken jaw and double pneumonia, has confronted prostate cancer the way he has met most other challenges: Aggressively.

"I'm one of those guys who, if you tell me I can't do something, I'll say 'kiss my ear,' and then I'll go ahead and do it," he says.

Otto still has one more month of hormone therapy ahead of him, and will have to come back to the Cancer Center every six months for check-ups indefinitely. In the meantime, he has declared a "personal vendetta" against prostate cancer, holding an annual celebrity golf classic at the Auburn Valley Country Club to raise money for prostate cancer research at UC Davis Cancer Center, and speaking to prostate cancer patients around the country.

"We can beat this disease," he says. And if you don't believe him, you can kiss his ear.