Long before Lyle Alzado was crushing quarterbacks and linemen in the National Football League, he was a strong and hard-nosed player at Lawrence High School in Nassau County.
A native of Cedarhurst, N.Y., Alzado used to lift weights in longtime Lawrence coach Rich Mollo’s garage while staring for the Golden Tornadoes. He eventually went onto Yankton College in South Dakota and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 1971.
His life is the subject of “A Football Life” profile on NFL Network. It aired for the first time in November. The documentary airs randomly on the network, so check your channel guide to catch it.
Originally it was purely his on-field success that drew attention to Alzado. He was AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1977, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro selection. He was as dominant as any defensive end in the 1970s.
Then came the commercials and Hollywood notoriety, especially since he played in Los Angeles with the Raiders in the early 1980s.
He was a terrifying player. The league even crowned the “Lyle Alzado Rule” after he flung a helmet of Jets tackle Chris Ward in a game in the ‘70s. Now helmets can’t be used as weapons.
All that rage was chalked up to steroids eventually, something he didn’t admit to using until after his retirement and after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He credits steroids with his death and downfall.
The NFL did not begin testing for steroids until the year after Alzado retired in 1985.
The documentary shows his struggles with supplements, his desire to be a good person and how his death affected so many people, including friends, family and former teammates.