NFL Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff Talks Football - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

NFL Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff Talks Football and Safety

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Tech Memorial grad aand NFL Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff returned to his high school, now called Central Tech, on Wednesday for a meet and greet. The talk was mostly about the game, but the long-time football player also shared some words on safety. 

Biletnikoff brought a message of hard work to Central Tech students.

"If you want to be an outstanding player, then you have to spend the time to be an outstanding player. It's that simple," Biletnikoff said.

The Tech alum played as a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders for 14 seasons and considered one of the best. His catches earned him a spot in both the NFL and the College Football hall of fame.

"He gives us a lot of inspiration for next year and it's just really great to have someone so famous come here and talk to us," said Dimitri Allison, a quarterback and junior at Tech. 

Biletnikoff serves as a huge point of pride for the school and he hopes to continue to inspire students. But he also acknowledged the concerns about concussions and the long-term mental health impacts of football.

"It's a shame the way things have gone. Later in life, you're suffering for a lot of things that you did. And unfortunately it has been football," Biletnikoff said.

Studies have linked the game to increased instances of brain injury, causing depression, dementia, and memory loss. Biletnikoff believes the industry still needs to work on safety standards.

"Well I think they're improving, I don't know if they're adequate. I don't think it's every going to be to the point where it's really adequate or that you have it solved," he said.

But the players at Tech aren't too worried. 

"It's not really a concern. I love the game, it's everything to me," said Allison. 

"A little bit but not really. As long as you know what you're doing, it should be safe," said Malcolm Goodwine, a junior at Tech who plays tackle on the team. 

Central tech's football coach Rob Matz said the school makes the safety of their players an absolute priority.

"We have trainers here, the kids all have concussion tests, and it's very clear and very safe," Matz said. 

As for Biletnikoff, he isn't sure if he's personally suffered mentally from the game.

"I go from one room to the other and can't remember what I'm there for, I don't know if that counts," he said with a laugh. 

But asked if he would do it all again? 

"Oh, hell yeah," he said.

Biletnikoff will be honored Thursday night at Art Arkelian's 50th charity banquet. Lilly Broadcasting's Mike Ruzzi will be master of ceremonies for the event. 

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