When football legend Jim Otto was diagnosed with prostate cancer last May, he found himself not just fighting a potentially life-threatening illness, but also fielding questions from sports reporters around the country. In interview after interview, the Oakland Raiders Hall of Famer offered praise for his treatment team at UC Davis Cancer Center – and pledged to give back after his recovery.
"They're trying some new things at UC Davis Medical Center," Otto said in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Denver Post, among other papers. "And I'm going to try to help them."
He has. On Otto's last day of treatment in September, the longtime Auburn resident brought Raiders' shirts and caps emblazoned with his number – 00 – for the doctors, nurses and radiation therapists who cared for him. He posed for pictures. He gave everybody autographed copies of his picture. He wrote a $25,000 check to the Auburn Endowment, a non-profit foundation that raises money for prostate cancer research at UC Davis. Perhaps most generously, he loaned his famous name and face to the UC Davis Cancer Center's latest television ad campaign – a commercial that aims to raise awareness that UC Davis is the only cancer treatment facility in the region to have achieved designation by the National Cancer Institute, the nation's top cancer organization.
"Jim Otto was a warrior on the football field, and now he's a warrior in the fight against prostate cancer," said Ralph deVere White, professor and chief of urology at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center and director of the UC Davis Cancer Center. "His openness about his illness and his recovery is going to make a tremendous difference for a lot of men who may be afraid to even have their prostates checked."
Considered the best center ever to play the game, Otto started in 210 consecutive league games, a Raiders' record, and played in 308 games overall during his 15-year career with the Oakland team. The Raiders won seven division championships and the American Football League championship during those years. Otto was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.
Today Otto is back at work as director of special projects for the Raiders, with a lot of new fans. "We're happy for Jim that he's done with treatment, but we're going to miss him," said Rick Harse, chief radiation therapist at the cancer center. "He's just the nicest guy. He was always so appreciative of the staff – even after one of the therapists said to him, 'Didn't you play for the 49ers?'"
For more information about how you can support the UC Davis Cancer Center, please contact Health Sciences Advancement at (916) 734-9400.