Gardin says, "There are so many lawsuits right now between the teams and players that it has become a political football. We're trying to make the league understand that this is nobody's fault—it goes with the game. But we're also trying to get the NFL to recognize the need."
That recognition may soon come. In 1993 the league extended postcareer paid insurance coverage to two years, up from the former 18 months, and grandfathered pre-1959 players into the current retirement program. Still, NFL financial support for charity work like St. Ville's remains little more than a goal, he says. "We have to negotiate some of these things with the NFL, and to date they don't get involved with it."
"The way to introduce that would be for the NFLPA to raise it in the context of the collective bargaining agreement," says John Jones, the manager of labor administration for the NFL Management Council. "League representatives would be ready to consider whatever the NFLPA puts forward, but they haven't introduced that yet."
Meanwhile, the NFLPA is trying to find a company willing to insure its members as a group, Woschitz says. "We're told they are high risks. We've talked to at least 30 companies, and none would do it."
That's why the work of St. Ville and an expanding cadre of donor hospitals like his is crucial. The list of Good Samaritans now includes, among others, Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, N.J.; Kendrick Memorial Hospital in Mooresville, Ind.; Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City; and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Woschitz calls the outpouring of support heartwarming, but he singles out St. Ville for his devotion. "What he's doing is just the right thing," Woschitz says.
Regardless of who coughs up the cash and who can't, St. Ville says his reward comes in lifting former warriors back onto their feet. "You get to see these guys turn their lives around," he says. "You can't imagine the impact it has on them."