Brandi Winans: Remembering Jeff

Dec 23, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brandi Winans informed us earlier today that Jeff Winans (Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1973 – 1978) had just passed away late last week. For those of you who might not know about Jeff and Brandi’s long battle with the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retired NFL Players Pension Plan over the years, we posted their story on our Players section earlier - click HERE to read Jeff and Brandi’s battle with the NFL. The saddest part of Jeff and Brandi’s fight for his earned disability benefits is that it’s more common than fans and the general public realizes. As more and more players and their families continue to come forward to make their stories public, this is now being shown to be standard practice for the NFL and the NFLPA in always finding ways to consistently deny most retirees’ benefits. Here is Brandi’s most recent post:
Jeff Winans BucsOnce in a while, someone walks into your life who takes your breathe away. Jeff Winans was the one who took mine away from the first time I saw him in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game program. My girlfriend introduced me to him a few weeks later at a local bar. He looked like a “Greek God” with his black curly hair and big smile – and eyes that you could get lost in. He made my heart pitter patter, it was love at first sight. I was Cinderella and he was my Prince Charming.
My Cinderella life ended a few years later when Jeff was disabled from football at 30. I went to work while fighting the NFL for his disability pension. Then after a horrific life-threatening gunshot accident, came the unexpected blessing of finding out I was pregnant with our only son, Travis.
With medical bills piling up and being the sole support of our family, came Bankruptcy, then surviving an earthquake during one of Jeff’s amputations, later surviving a recluse spider bite, another amputation, six back and neck surgeries, a torn patella, too much to go into: All of it made our love grow stronger every day because we had each other.
A few years later, progressive behavior problems – which we realized later were due to multiple NFL head injuries – tore us apart. But separation, an unexpected divorce, and living 3000 miles apart, couldn’t destroy the love we had for each other. He still made my heart pitter, patter. We took things slow, becoming best friends again, rekindling dreams we had left behind. I was still Cinderella and he was still my Prince Charming. With a move planned back here in the next few months, the love of our son and his new-found family, nothing could go wrong.
BrandiThen suddenly two days ago, Jeff was taken away from us.
Life is short. Tell your family and loved ones how much you love them every day. Don’t live with regrets. Life happens unexpectedly.
Brandi Winans

14 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Tiffany Brooks
    December 23rd, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    Kevin Brooks

    This is such a sad, yet beautiful story.

    You are in our prayers. I pray your family has comfort and peace. To be the wife of a legend is an honor. You are what all of us should be for our spouses. The game of football beat them up enough.

    Thank you for this love story. God bless you.

    Tiffany Brooks
    wife – Kevin Brooks
    Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions
    1985 – 1992

  2. George Visger
    December 24th, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    George Visger


    Your strength through this horrific journey is an inspiration to us all. The NFL refuses to acknowledge the ripple effect as to how our NFL-caused injuries impact all of our loved ones.

    Though you never played in the NFL, you have suffered as much as Jeff did from his injuries.

    The both of you are in my prayers.

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers 1980 & 1981

  3. Phyllis Combs
    December 24th, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Brandi –

    I have only known you for a short time. You are one of the most heart warming people in my life. Your journey is about to start over again.

    I love you as my friend and I am here for you always.


  4. Dave Pear
    December 24th, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Dave & Heidi.jpg

    Hi Brandi,

    Jeff and I were teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is a shame that you and Jeff had to endure so many years of hardship while fighting the NFL for his earned disability benefits. But you know, we haven’t found any pre-1993 player who were granted disability benefits without legal help or years of fighting the corrupt NFL system still in place today – the Bell/Rozelle Disability Board – which is under the control of the Groom Law group. And even now, only a few disabled players ever receive anything.

    Our fight has certainly helped the current players who apply for disability benefits but concerning the pre-1993 players, it’s still Delay, Deny and Hope You Die.

    We are so sorry to hear about your loss.

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  5. Jim Tolbert
    December 25th, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Jim Tolbert

    May the Lord bless and keep you. From my family to yours we send our love.

    Jim Tolbert
    San Diego Chargers, Houston Oilers, St. Louis Cardinals
    1966 – 1977

  6. Dean Jepson
    December 25th, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Very sorry, Brandi; it was certainly a shock to hear about Jeff since we’d just talked at Costco a couple of weeks ago. Jeff and I played basketball together at MJC and we met you and Travis briefly years ago.

    You’ve been such an incredible advocate. Thank you for your time and energy; and I’m glad you guys were on good terms again. He was a remarkable athlete and person.

    Dean Jepson

  7. Richard Valentine
    December 26th, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    My deepest heartfelt condolences to the Winans family for their loss of a beloved family member. I am not a football player but I am a true diehard follower of the players of the past and the way they played the game from the heart.

    There are a few retired football players that live in my area that I know personally and that I keep in constant contact with. I enjoy listening to their stories of the past and how the game was played and what they went through to keep playing the game they loved. I hear and read many stories of players from the past and what they are going through now dealing with health and physical setbacks that get worse and worse with no help offered due to the game they played.

    I just wanted to add my two cents and let others know how I felt and hope help comes to these players from the past soon before it really gets out of hand. Again, my condolences to the Winans family and other families that have lost family members due to the sport they loved.

    Richard Valentine

  8. Jim Zimmerman
    December 26th, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss, Brandi. May God bless you and your family.

    Jim Zimmerman
    Oldest Living ProFootball Players

  9. Sharon Smith
    December 28th, 2012 at 5:51 am #


    Jeff was a good friend of my husband, Michael Smith (Naples, FL). I only met Jeff once but I know how much Michael thought of him. Their friendship started in Turlock, CA many years ago.

    I admire you so much for your efforts on behalf of the NFL players who are suffering from the effects of multiple concussions. You also were kind enough to send me a wonderful get well card and note after a surgery that I had. We didn’t really know each other but you still took the time to wish me a speedy recovery.

    My thoughts are with you, Brandi.

    Sharon Smith (wife of Michael Smith)

  10. Michael Smith
    December 31st, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    I’d like to thank my wonderful wife, Sharon, for our words to Brandi.

    Brandi, as you know I grew up in Turlock CA; as you said, Jeff was a prince but on the field all my life of sports let it be said and known THIS WAS A MAN THEY CALLED A WARRIOR!

    My body still feels like it did in younger years of Pro-Softball.

    I will miss you, my friend.

    Brandi and your son, Travis: Sharon, Jenna and I will have you in our prayers and want you to feel our love at this time. We are still in Naples – please call when you can to share our feelings.

    Michael Smith

  11. Brandi Winans
    March 14th, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Brandi Winans

    I am so moved by all the inspirational and moving comments left regarding Jeff’s passing. Travis and I will be doing a Celebration of Life for Jeff, April 20th, 2013 in Turlock, Calif. Location to be announced. If you live in the area, I welcome you to come join us and tell us a “Jeff” story. They will be recorded and given to Travis and our family.

    Please keep Travis in your prayers for strength. He and his father were very close and he needs extra strength right now.

    God Bless you all,
    I can be reached via email at
    Luv ‘n hugs
    Blessings, Brandi

  12. Tena Rembert
    May 15th, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Johnny Rembert


    I share your pain. I am an ex-player’s wife and know all about the struggles. I sent you an e-mail with my contact information and hope you’ll call me.

    wife Johnny Rembert
    New England Patriots
    1983 – 1992

  13. Brandi Winans
    May 16th, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    Brandi Winans

    Hello Tena,

    Thanks you for your kind words. I would love to speak with you. Please contact me at and we can exchange phone numbers.

    Warmest Regards,
    Brandi Winans
    widow Jeff Winans
    1951 – 2012
    Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints,
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders
    1973 – 1980
    Jeff Winans Bucs

  14. Susan
    June 15th, 2013 at 8:33 pm #


    I just heard. I’m so very sorry. You and Jeff are two of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of having in my life. I love you both so much. God bless you & Travis.

    I know He has a special place in Heaven for Jeff. I wish I could have been there for you.