OAK CREEK, Wis. -- Former Oakland Raider John Matuszak was remembered Wednesday as a caring family man and great football player whose wild image belied the real demeanor of the man.
'In three memorable decades, we had the greatest players, the greatest coaches,' said Al Davis, owner of the now-Los Angeles Raiders. 'During the '60s, '70s and '80s the Raiders had the best record in pro sports. And John Matuszak was one of those great players.'
Matuszak died Saturday at the age of 38 in Burbank, Calif. The cause of death had not yet been determined.
About 500 people including friends, family and former teammates of Matuszak crowded into St. Matthew's Church for the 90-minute funeral.
'John will be remembered for more than just his accomplishments as a professional football player,' said the Rev. Joseph G. Sukup. 'He will be remembered for more than his accomplishments in television or in the movies.
'It was this unheralded side of John, the side of John that didn't hit the headlines that became very clear to me when I talked with his family the last couple days,' Sukup said. 'He kept his family uppermost in his mind and his heart. Even when they were separated by great distances, his family was No. 1 in his life.'
Mickey Marvin, a former teammate and Matuszak's roommate, said many people thought they knew Matuszak, 'but they don't really know him.'
'I know him because I lived with him,' he said. 'The times I remember are not the victories, the times that I remember most were the tears.'
He recalled the time Matuszak came to North Carolina to help out at a children's football camp Marvin was running.
'My whole family loved that big guy. You can tell a lot about a man by how he deals with children,' Marvin said. 'That camp might as well have been the John Matuszak football camp instead of the Mickey Marvin football camp. He was so precious with those kids. They were just hanging all over this big giant of a man. But he wasn't just a big man physically, he had a big heart.
'I've lost a great friend,' Marvin said.
Other former teammates in attendance were Ted Hendricks, Phil Villipiano, Rod Martin and Gene Upshaw.
Upshaw, now head of the NFL Players' Association, said after the service that the team always has been a family.
'This is when we really pull together,' he said. 'That's what we've always been able to do. Just to be here was a shocker, but regardless of what our schedules are, we have to come and say goodbye to a friend and a teammate.
'We all loved him and that's all part of the Raider tradition,' Upshaw said. 'A lot can be said about the silver and black, the pride and poise and commitment to excellence, but that commitment goes on, even through something like this.'
Matuszak, a Milwaukee native, grew up in Oak Creek. He attended Oak Creek High School, the University of Missouri and the University of Tampa before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NFL draft, going to Houston.
He was traded to Kansas City and Washington and then was signed by Oakland in 1976. He played as a defensive end with Oakland until 1981, during which time the team won two Super Bowls, and was on injured reserve during the 1982 season. He retired at the end of 1982 and pursued an acting career.
'John Matuszak will not be enshrined in the (pro football) Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, because he did not have all the years of glory so necessary to be enshrined there,' Davis said. 'But I say this to you, in the Raider Hall of Fame and in the hearts of the Raider family, his name is enshrined and will live on in perpetuity for his great contributions to the greatness of the Raiders.'
Despite his contributions to two Raider Super Bowl victories, many felt the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Matuszak never fulfilled the expectations of him as a football player and instead focused attention on his documented problems with alcohol and drugs and several brushes with the law.
Emblematic of his sometimes contradictory career and lifestyle, Matuszak's memorial service closed with the playing of a tape of the Rolling Stones' song, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want.'