Still grieving the loss of a friend and mentor to COVID-19, Alaska football great Mark Schlereth returned home this week to encourage people to get educated about vaccines.
The Service High alum and three-time Super Bowl champion made a halftime appearance Friday night at West High, where his alma mater squared off against the West Eagles.
Schlereth said the friend, one of his high school coaches, was someone he talked to every week during the course of his NFL career and every month since he retired from football. He said the man died Thursday with COVID-19 after refusing to get vaccinated despite his advanced age.
“I just want to encourage everybody to do your part, to talk to your doctor and if it’s the right decision for you, please get vaccinated, please take care of one another,” said Schlereth.
Schlereth played in the NFL for 12 years from 1989-2000, winning Super Bowls in 1991 with Washington and 1997 and 1998 with Denver.
He has been outspoken on social media in his advocation for COVID-19 vaccines, and he said the NFL Players Association reached out to him about spreading the word in his home state.
“So here I am,” Schlereth said.
“I just lost a dear, dear friend who refused to get vaccinated, so that hit home for me, and because my mom is dealing with cancer, I wanted to spend as much time safely with her as possible ... so it was just a no-brainer for us,” Schlereth said, explaining why he and his family got their shots and why others should follow suit.
Schlereth, 55, battled Guillain-Barre, an autoimmune disorder, in 1993 while playing for Washington. He said he did his due diligence before getting vaccinated.
“I talked to multiple doctors and I thought the best decision was to get vaccinated so I could spend that time with my mom,” he said.
Schlereth on Saturday will be at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s vaccine booth at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer from 1-2:30 p.m.