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About Gene Upshaw

Gene Upshaw was the Oakland Raiders’ first-round choice in the first combined AFL/NFL draft in 1967. Shortly into his career, Upshaw was thrusted into Union life as one year after being drafted, the NFLPA voted to have its first player strike in hopes of better compensation.  

Over his 16 season career, he played in 307 contests including three AFL & seven AFC championship games and Super Bowls II, XI, XV. He was the first NFL player to appear in three Super Bowls in three decades.  

In 1971, the NFLPA opened it’s first office in Washington, DC, and in Oakland, now veteran player, Upshaw, is leading a 8-4-2 Raiders to a 2nd place division title. 13 seasons in, Gene was elected President of the NFLPA where he and other player representatives negotiated a monumental Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which brought severance pay, the right to second medical opinions, NFLPA certified agents, and more. Gene remained President until players selected him as the new Executive Director in 1983 where he remained for the next 25 years.  

The formation of PAF

In the Spring of 1990, the NFLPA founded a non-profit organization, the Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF). No stranger to the game, Upshaw recognized the many challenges players faced after their playing careers concluded. Through his namesake, the PAF’s Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust (GU PAT) grant awarded its first $1,000 grant to a former NFL player. 

In the early 2000s, the PAF expanded its skill sets and programs to better support our players by hiring the NFLPA’s first ever full-time Social Worker, developed the first former player focused and free health screening opportunities, and continued to pave the way for other organizations to begin paying attention to the specific needs of our former player population.  

Later, the PAF made a concerted effort to include player spouses in such programming as it was realized how important these individuals can be to the well-being of our players.  

Over the years, the PAF has rapidly grown and is now the leading, longest standing, and most robust former player support organization, having awarded upwards of $25,000,000 to players in need and engaged +5,000 through various well-being initiatives.   

Sadly, Gene Upshaw lost his battle to cancer on August 20, 2008 though his legacy of helping players is felt through the continued work of the NFLPA and the PAF.

Learn more about the legend on YouTube.