NFL Kicker's Tale: Brief Fame, a Head Injury, a Life Derailed

Buffalo News recounts plight of Bjorn Nittmo
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2016 9:50 AM CDT
Updated Sep 10, 2016 3:18 PM CDT

If the name Bjorn Nittmo happens to ring a bell, it's almost certainly because David Letterman made the NFL kicker a brief celebrity a quarter-century ago. (Letterman loved his name, had him on the show, and made a catchphrase out of, "Who do you think you are, Bjorn Nittmo?") It's probably not because of his football career given that he played six games with the Giants in 1989 and never kicked in a regulation NFL game again. But even if the name doesn't ring a bell, Nittmo's story is well worth reading in the Buffalo News. As writer Tim Graham recounts, Nittmo continued trying to crack NFL rosters but suffered a devastating concussion during a 1997 preseason game for the Buccaneers. He and his wife had two children at the time, but in a phone call to her afterward, he could remember only one. Now 50, his life has been on a steady downward decline since.

"Eleven years ago he stopped coming home to his wife and four children," writes Graham. "He had lost part of his memory and still complains about the constant howling in his head from a concussive whomp. He has filed for bankruptcy and faced at least six civil judgments or liens. At some point he began using a different name." The best guess is that he's living in the Arizona mountains somewhere, perhaps installing home-satellite systems to make a buck. He still shows up to deliver cards to his wife in Texas on special occasions, and his family keeps pushing him to get help but fear it's too late. The last time he showed up, in April, he looked like he was homeless. Click for the full story, which includes an account of ex-wife Mary Lois seeing a replay—for the first time, nearly 20 years later—of the play that wrecked their lives. (Read more Longform stories.)

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