Rolf Benirschke

Rolf Joachim Benirschke (born February 7, 1955) is a former American football player in the National Football League. Benirschke played for the San Diego Chargers as their placekicker from 1978 until 1986.

Following his retirement from football Benirschke tried to find a career in television and was hired by Merv Griffin to replace Pat Sajak as host of the daytime game show Wheel of Fortune in 1989.

Rolf Benirschke
No. 6
Personal information
Born:February 7, 1955 (age 64)
Boston, Massachusetts
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:171 lb (78 kg)
Career information
College:UC Davis
NFL Draft:1977 / Round: 12 / Pick: 334
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:121
FG Att:208
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Early career

Benirschke grew up in San Diego and attended La Jolla High School. His father Kurt Benirschke, a German immigrant, was a pathologist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the founder/director of the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species at the San Diego Zoo, where Rolf worked summers in high school and college.

Rolf Benirschke majored in zoology at the University of California, Davis, where he played football under coach Jim Sochor. He was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 12th round of the 1977 NFL Draft, and was then traded to the San Diego Chargers for his rookie year in the National Football League.

In the off-season before the 1978 season, his second season, he developed chronic fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. He learned that he had ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Living with ulcerative colitis

His health problems got worse in the 1979 season, when, on the team plane coming home from a road trip, Benirschke collapsed. He underwent two surgeries to remove his large intestine and he was in the intensive care unit for weeks. When released from the hospital, he weighed only 123 pounds and had to adjust to life with two ostomy appliances. His ileostomy was eventually reversed in a Kock pouch procedure.

On Sunday, November 18, 1979, Benirschke made his dramatic return to the Chargers in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he did not play, he was named honorary team captain for the game, which was a sellout. Louie Kelcher, a Chargers' defensive tackle, assisted him and held his hand out onto the field.[1] The Chargers won the game 35-7.

From 1980 to 1982, Benirschke was also a broadcaster for the San Diego Sockers of the former North American Soccer League.[2]

In 1980 Benirschke returned to kicking and played seven more seasons with the team before retiring in 1987 as the team's all-time leader in points scored (766).[3]

He was named the NFL Man of the Year in 1983. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1983 season. In 1984, his kickoffs were viewed to be too short, and he gave a thumbs-up sign to Denver Broncos kicker Rich Karlis before a field goal that defeated the Chargers, prompting a meeting with San Diego owner Alex Spanos over Benirschke's loyalties. Although Benirschke had the third-highest field goal percentage in NFL history, the Chargers selected punter/kicker Ralf Mojsiejenko in the 1985 NFL Draft to provide competition.[4]

On August 31, 1987, Benirschke was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a draft pick after he lost his job to rookie Vince Abbott. He was released by Dallas on September 7, and formally announced his retirement in December. After 10 years with San Diego, he retired as the team's all-time scoring leader with 766 points and held 15 club records. He made 146 field goals in 208 tries for a .702 field goal percentage, at the time the third-most accurate in league history behind Eddie Murray and Nick Lowery.[5]

In 1997, he was the twentieth player inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

Life after football

Benirschke hosted the daytime version of the TV game show Wheel of Fortune from January 10 to June 30, 1989 after Pat Sajak left the daytime version to host The Pat Sajak Show; Sajak has continued to host the nighttime syndicated version. When the daytime version moved to CBS, Bob Goen succeeded Benirschke as host. He has not been involved in television since, but was among the many participants in the E! Network's True Hollywood Story episode on Wheel.

He founded and later sold a financial services company, and has been involved in venture capital and development groups.[6] He is the national spokesman for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and for Hepatitis C awareness.

In November 1996 he published his book, Alive and Kicking![7] from which his almost-famous quote "It's not what you become, it's what you overcome" was first observed.

During and after his football tenure he was also an endangered animal activist who created a well known endangered animal charity, "Kicks for Critters."[8]

He currently devotes much of his time to Legacy Health Strategies LHS, a strategic planning and marketing company servicing selected medical device and pharma companies by developing patient support and awareness programs that service different disease states.

Rolf routinely speaks at national sales meetings, for major corporations, and at health related events across the country. Some of his clients include UCSD Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, The American Liver Foundation, the National Center for Disease Control, Emdeon, Pacific Life, The Hartford, Nanogen, WOC Nurses, YPO groups, and many others. Rolf Benirschke

He is married to the former Mary Michaletz; the couple has four children. He is active in the San Diego, California area, volunteering his time with organizations like the San Diego Zoo, United Way, the Chargers, the Boys & Girls Clubs of East County and the San Diego Blood Bank. Every year, he is in charge of the Rolf Benirschke Legacy Golf Invitational,[9] held at the Rancho Santa Fe Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Some of the money is donated to charities such as the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Benirschke, Rolf with Mike Yorkey. Alive & Kicking: The true life story of an NFL star's battle with ulcerative colitis, ostomy surgery and hepatitis C. San Diego: Rolf Benirschke Enterprises, Inc., 1996, p. 174.
  3. ^ San Diego Magazine
  4. ^ Cobbs, Chris (June 20, 1985). "For Once, Chargers' Benirschke Has a Challenge". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 12, 2014.
  5. ^ Wolf, Bob (December 19, 1987). "No Kicks : It Was a Grand Party, but Rolf Benirschke Decides It Is Over". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 12, 2014.
  6. ^ 2006 interview in San Diego Magazine
  7. ^ Benirschke, Rolf, Alive and Kicking!, Firefly Press, 1996, SBN-13: 9781885553409 ISBN 1-885553-40-4
  8. ^
  9. ^ Golf tournament website

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Pat Sajak
Host of Wheel of Fortune (daytime)
January 10, 1989 – June 30, 1989
Succeeded by
Bob Goen (1989)
1976 UC Davis Aggies football team

The 1976 UC Davis football team represented the University of California, Davis in the 1976 NCAA Division II football season. UC Davis competed in the Far Western Conference (FWC).The Aggies were led by head coach Jim Sochor in his 7th year. They played home games at Toomey Field. UC Davis finished the season as champion of the FWC for the 6th consecutive season and it was their 7th consecutive winning season. The Aggies finished the season with a record of eight wins and two losses (8–2, 5–0 FWC). With the 5–0 conference record, they stretched their conference winning streak to 18 games dating back to the 1973 season. The Aggies outscored their opponents 233–112 for the 1976 season.

1979 San Diego Chargers season

The 1979 San Diego Chargers season was the team's 20th season, and 10th in the National Football League. Their 12–4 record was tied for the best in the league in 1979.

The 1979 Chargers finished in first place in the AFC West after having finished 9–7 in 1978. The Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts threw for more than 4,000 yards, and wide receivers Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson both gained more than 1,000 yards receiving. The Chargers became the first AFC West champion to run more passing plays (541) then rushing (481).The season ended with a playoff loss to the Houston Oilers.

As part of a marketing campaign, the Chargers created their fight song, "San Diego Super Chargers".The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus, listed the 1979 Chargers as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons", in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal." Said Pro Football Prospectus of the team, "the creative [head coach] Don Coryell always designed potent offenses, but the San Diego defense didn't catch up until 1979. ... In their first playoff game, the Chargers hosted a Houston Oilers team missing running back Earl Campbell and quarterback Dan Pastorini and fell on their faces. Fouts threw five interceptions and no touchdowns, and the Chargers blew a third quarter lead and lost 17–14. The Chargers would not have the best record in the NFL again until the 2006 season. They would not have another top ten defense in points allowed until 1989. They would not win 12 games in a season until 2004. Their best shot at glory went horribly awry, thanks to the worst game in the illustrious career of Dan Fouts."

1980 All-Pro Team

The 1980 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League players that were named to the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers Association, Pro Football Weekly, and The Sporting News All-Pro Teams in 1980. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the five teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. Pro Football Weekly chose a nose tackle due to the proliferation of 3-4 defenses in the NFL. They, and The Sporting News chose two inside linebackers.

1980 Denver Broncos season

The 1980 Denver Broncos season was the team's 21st year in professional football and its 11th with the National Football League (NFL). It was Red Miller's final season as the team's head coach.

1980 Oakland Raiders season

The 1980 Oakland Raiders season began with the team trying to improve on their 9–7 record from 1979. It was the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Raiders franchise and ended with their second Super Bowl victory. Prior to the start of the season, Al Davis announced plans to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. However, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle blocked the move by filing a restraining order. He even tried to have Al Davis removed as owner, as the case went to the courts. Still playing in Oakland, the Raiders entered the season with a new Quarterback after acquiring Dan Pastorini from the Houston Oilers for Kenny Stabler. However Pastorini struggled and the Raiders got off to a 2-3 when Pastorini was injured and replaced by Jim Plunkett. Plunkett proved right for the Raiders offense. The defense led the league in interceptions (35), turnovers (52) and yards per carry (3.4 YPA). Lester Hayes led the NFL with 13 interceptions. The team won 6 straight compiling an 11-5 record, and qualifying for the playoffs as a Wild Card. In the Wild Card Game, the Raiders would beat the Houston Oilers 27-7 at Oakland as the Raiders defense picked off former teammate Kenny Stabler twice. Playing in freezing weather with temperature reading 30 degrees below zero, the Raiders stunned the Browns 14-12 in a defensive struggle in Cleveland. In the AFC Championship Game in San Diego, the game would be a shoot out as the Raiders stunned the Chargers 34-27 to become the first AFC Wild Card to make the Super Bowl. Highlighted by Jim Plunkett's MVP performance and Rod Martin's 3 interceptions, the Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.

1980 San Diego Chargers season

The 1980 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 11th season in the National Football League (NFL), and its 21st overall. the team failed to improve on their 12–4 record in 1979 and finished 11-5. They won their first playoff game in 17 years. The season ended with loss to the Raiders in the playoffs.

Dan Fouts broke his own record with over 4,500 yards passing, with 30 touchdowns. The Chargers finished #1 in total offense #2 in scoring. The defensive unit finished #6, leading the NFL with 60 QB sacks. The Chargers finished 11-5, winning the tiebreaker with the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West crown.

To help bolster a sagging running game, Running back Chuck Muncie was traded from the New Orleans Saints mid-season.The Chargers Achilles heel that season was turnovers which they led the league in giveaways. In the Divisional Round against Buffalo, a 50-yard touchdown pass from Fouts to Ron Smith in the final 3 minutes of the game lifted the Chargers to a 20-14 win. In the AFC Championship Game, big plays and turnovers got the Chargers down, 28 to 7. The Chargers comeback fell short as the Raiders hung on to win 34-27, with Oakland running out the final 7 minutes of the 4th quarter.

1981 Buffalo Bills season

The 1981 Buffalo Bills season was the 22nd season for the club and its 12th in the National Football League.

The season's most memorable moment was probably a Hail Mary catch against the New England Patriots in Week Twelve. The 36-yard touchdown pass from Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson to running back Roland Hooks as time expired won the game for Buffalo, 20–17. The win proved to be crucial in giving Buffalo the final playoff spot in the AFC in 1981. The Bills qualified for the playoffs, but lost, 28-21, to the Cincinnati Bengals.

1981 San Diego Chargers season

The 1981 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 12th season in the National Football League (NFL) and its 22nd overall. The team failed to improve on their 11–5 record from 1980 and finished 10-6. In the playoffs, they beat the Dolphins in a game known as the Epic in Miami and lost to the Bengals in a game known as the Freezer Bowl.

1981 was the second straight season in which the Chargers reached the AFC Championship Game, as well as their second consecutive loss.

Running back Chuck Muncie enjoyed his best season, running for 1,144 yards and 19 touchdowns, tying the then-NFL season record for rushing touchdowns.During this season, the Chargers lost two key players by way of trade. Before Week 3, wide receiver John Jefferson was dealt to the Green Bay Packers, while defensive end Fred Dean would be dealt to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers by Week 5. The season was chronicled on September 18, 2008 for America's Game: The Missing Rings, as one of the five greatest NFL teams to never win the Super Bowl.

1982 San Diego Chargers season

The 1982 San Diego Chargers season was the team's 23rd year, and 13th in the National Football League. The team had a 10–6 record in 1981. It was a strike-shortened season so the league was divided up into two conferences instead of its normal divisional alignment. It ended with a second round loss to the Dolphins. This would be the team's last playoff appearance until 1992.

The 1982 Chargers were the top-scoring team in the NFL. They scored a total of 288 points, 32 per game. They led the league in passing touchdowns (19), rushing touchdowns (15, tied with the Raiders) passing yards (2,927), and yards per attempt (8.9).

The Chargers defense, however, surrendered the most passing yards (2,292), and second-most first downs (119) in the league.Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts was named the Pro Football Writers of America MVP, and 1982 AP Offensive Player of the Year. Wide receiver Wes Chandler, tight end Kellen Winslow, and guard Doug Wilkerson all made first-team All-Pro.

1983 San Diego Chargers season

The 1983 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 14th season in the National Football League (NFL), its 24th overall. the team fell from their 6–3 record from 1982 to 6-10. It was their first losing season since 1976, as it is to date the most points the Chargers have surrendered in a sixteen-game season.

Despite San Diego's disappointing 6-10 record, they led the NFL in passing yardage for the sixth consecutive season, which remains an NFL record.

1984 San Diego Chargers season

The 1984 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 15th season in the National Football League (NFL), its 25th overall. The Team improveed on their 6–10 record in 1983 to 7-9. Despite winning seven games, the Chargers failed to win a single game within their division.

Before the second game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, running back Chuck Muncie missed the team's charter flight from San Diego. He told Chargers coach Don Coryell that he was late because vandals slashed the four tires on his car, but Coryell did not believe him. Muncie arrived in Seattle, but he was sent back to San Diego and did not play. Two days later, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round draft pick; however, a urinalysis given by Miami detected cocaine, and the trade was voided. Afterwards, Muncie entered an Arizona drug rehabilitation center for a month. On November 15, he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL; he never played another NFL game.

1986 Miami Dolphins season

The 1986 Miami Dolphins season was the team's 21st as a member of the National Football League (NFL). The Dolphins failed to improve upon their previous season's output of 12–4, winning only eight games. This was the first time in six seasons the team did not qualify for the playoffs. This was also the team's final season at the Orange Bowl before moving into their new stadium Joe Robbie Stadium the following season.

1986 San Diego Chargers season

The 1986 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 17th season in the National Football League (NFL), and its 27th overall. the team failed to improve on their 8–8 record from 1985 Following a stagnant 1–7 start, Head Coach Don Coryell was fired and Al Saunders was named interim Head Coach. After the season, Saunders was named the permanent Head Coach and would hold the position through the end of the 1988 season. Leslie O'Neal was named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award

The Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award has been awarded by the National Football League Players Association continuously since 1967. The most recent winner, for the 2017 season, is Chris Long of the Philadelphia Eagles. The award honors work in the community as the NFL player who best served his team, community and country in the spirit of Byron "Whizzer" White, who was a Supreme Court justice, professional American football player, naval officer, and humanitarian. Past winners have included Drew Brees, Warrick Dunn, Gale Sayers, Bart Starr, Archie Manning, Peyton Manning, Troy Vincent, and Ken Houston. Prior to his ascension to the Supreme Court, White had been All-Pro three times (1938, 1940, 1941) and the NFL rushing champion twice (1938 and 1940).

The 2001 recipient, Michael McCrary, was the child in the Supreme Court case Runyon v. McCrary (1976) in which Justice White had participated nearly a quarter of a century before McCrary's award. White had dissented from the position taken by the lawyers for McCrary.

Pat Sajak

Pat Sajak ( SAY-jak, born Patrick Leonard Sajdak; October 26, 1946) is an American television personality, former weatherman, and talk show host, best known as the host of the American television game show Wheel of Fortune.

San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team

The San Diego Chargers announced their 40th Anniversary Team in 2000 to honor the top players and coaches in the history of the National Football League team. The Chargers began play in 1960 as part of the American Football League. The anniversary team included 31 players and coaches voted on by fans and a media panel. The team became the Los Angeles Chargers after relocating in 2017.

Vince Abbott

Vincent Steven Abbott (born May 31, 1958) is an English-born former American football player. Born in London, Abbott played at the University of Washington, then transferred to Fullerton State, and went undrafted in 1981. He played for the USFL for the Los Angeles Express. During the 1987 pre-season, Abbott went 7 for 8 on field goals, four over 40 yards beating out veteran kicker Rolf Benirschke.

In his first NFL game, the 1987 season opener in Kansas City against the Kansas City Chiefs, Abbott successfully made two out of three field goals, a thirty-two yarder and a thirty-three yarder, the second tying the game at 13 with just over three minutes to play. In game 7 against the Cleveland Browns. Vince Abbott,successfully converted a twenty-yard kick with 1:46 remaining in the game, tying the score at 24 apiece, and he was able to convert a 33-yard overtime kick to secure victory for the Chargers, 27-24. That kick lifted the Chargers to 6-1, their best start since their first season in 1961, and put them in first place in their division. Three field goals each against the Indianapolis Colts including a game-winning field goal from 38 yards. Week 9 against the Raiders, Vince kicked 3 field goals unabling the Charers to win 16-14.The San Diego Chargers momentum going as they ran their record to 8-1.

Vince Abbott made his mark, kicking under pressure. In the Raider game, it was his first field goal attempt when the chargers were leading.

Although the Chargers would fade, losing their final six games to miss the playoffs, Abbott retained his kicking duties into 1989, having finished the 1987 with a 13 for 22 field goals, with seven of his misses coming from beyond forty yards. Abbott played in 12 games during 1988, for a Chargers team that went 6-10, and converted 8 out of 12 field goals. This was his last season in the NFL; he ended his career a perfect 13 for 13 on game-winning field goals.

Vince Abbott resides in Newport Beach and is an avid power lifter benching over 475 lbs.

His career after the NFL includes medical sales and business development.

Mr. Abbott continues to coach aspiring field goal kickers and weight lifters.

Wheel of Fortune (U.S. game show)

Wheel of Fortune (often known simply as Wheel) is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin that debuted in 1975. The show features a competition in which contestants solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a giant carnival wheel.

Wheel originally aired as a daytime series on NBC from January 6, 1975, to June 30, 1989. After some changes were made to its format, the daytime series moved to CBS from July 17, 1989, to January 11, 1991. It then returned to NBC from January 14, 1991, until it was cancelled on September 20, 1991. The popularity of the daytime series led to a nightly syndicated edition being developed, which premiered on September 19, 1983, and has aired continuously since.

The network version was originally hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford, with Charlie O'Donnell as its announcer. O'Donnell left in 1980 and was replaced by Jack Clark. After Clark's death in 1988, M. G. Kelly took over briefly as announcer until O'Donnell returned in 1989. O'Donnell remained on the network version until its cancellation, and continued to announce on the syndicated show until his death in 2010, when Jim Thornton succeeded him. Woolery left in 1981, and was replaced by Pat Sajak. Sajak left the network version in January 1989 to host his own late-night talk show, and was replaced on that version by Rolf Benirschke. Bob Goen replaced Benirschke when the network show moved to CBS, then remained as host until the network show was canceled altogether. Stafford left in 1982, and was replaced by Vanna White, who remained on the network show for the rest of its run. The syndicated version has been hosted continuously by Sajak and White since its inception.

Wheel of Fortune ranks as the longest-running syndicated game show in the United States, with over 6,000 episodes aired. TV Guide named it the "top-rated syndicated series" in a 2008 article, and in 2013, the magazine ranked it at No. 2 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever. The program has also come to gain a worldwide following with sixty international adaptations. The syndicated series' 36th season premiered on September 10, 2018, and Sajak became the longest-running host of any game show, surpassing Bob Barker, who did Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007.

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International versions
Hosts (U.S. version)
Cohosts (U.S. version)

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