NFL wife Janet Duranko speaks out for Pete and her family

Feb 21, 2014

 Pete Duranko



My name is Janet Duranko, I was married to Pete Duranko for 44 years. Pete played with the Denver Broncos “67 to 76” and as most of you know, Pete died July 8, 2011. I have been following Dave’s blog and sadly the stories of the NFL widows as we are now known and the hardships and rapidly declining health of the NFL retirees. I have been wanting to share my story for awhile but it was too hard to relive that horrible time. Pete was diagosed with ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease) in 1999, dementia in 2010 and CTE after we donated his brain, eyes and spinal cord to Boston University. My sons and I watched him die for twelve years. He was trached and on oxygen and a ventilator for 5 of his last years. For thjose who knew him, you all know what a joker he was and handled  his disease with humor and courage. I too was given no help from the NFL and he was only on the “88” plan for one year before he died ( this after fighting for it for years).  if it wasn’t fot the NFL alumni he wouldn’t even of had his wheel chair. I am thankful at least I’m praying that with the settlement all the retired players with ALS, dementia and declining health won’t have to go through  what Pete and I did, medical expenses, financial hardship and refusals for help from theNFL. Tom Beer and Larry Kaminski were teammates of Petes and their families were dear friends of ours. Dave was Pete’s roommate at camp in Tampa, the year Pete retired. Thank you all for letting me share my story and sadly there are going to be many more. It is so tragic to me that the NFL not only stands for (not for long) as a career but also as a LIFESPAN!!! I MISS HIM SO MUCH, HE IS IN A MUCH BETTER PLACE!  GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

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8 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dave Pear
    February 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Another tragedy for an NFL family. When will this abuse of power stop from the GREEDY NFL owners and the League?

    When will the NFL allow injured and disabled retired players access to their earned disability benefits (esp. the pre-1993)???

    When will the NFL fire the Groom Law Group and their lawyer Doug Ell who runs the Bell/Rozelle Disability plan?

    Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriot’s) recently said in a news interview on TV; “the NFL needs to do a better job on its public relations concerning head injuries and concussions.”

    Mr. Kraft, I doubt that public relations would have help the Duranko family.

    The proposed concussion settlement of $768,000,000 is little more than a nuisance fee for the league and will not even begin to cover the real costs and restitution for retired players and their families. If 100 retired player with ALS received $5,000,000 each that amounts to $500,000,000. What is left? What about the other 17,900 retired players. The NFL better begin working on this public relations spin in an effort to further dupe the public.

    In my opinion Mr. Kraft, the NFL needs to refrain from concealing the effects of head injuries and allow injured players access to real medical benefits and restitution for concealing head injuries.

    No more Dr. “NO” Ira Casson or Elliot Pellman — a Long Island rheumatologist with no previous expertise in brain research. And went to school in Mexico.

    And Commissioner Goodell. No more phony medical benefits or disability plans like the current Bell/Rozelle disability plan that is a complete debacle. Retired players and their families want real benefits just like you and your family receive from the NFL.

    Roger, NOBODY believes you and your $45,000,000 annual salary anymore.

    Dave Pear
    Pro Bowl 1978
    Super Bowl XV
    Social Security Disability at the age of 50

  2. Larry Kaminski
    February 21st, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    This story broke an already weak heart. My inability to digest the behavior and greed of the NFL makes me seethe with anger…why does this happen? How can anyone associated with the NFL condone money over former player health and safety? WHY?

    Where is the NFLPA?

  3. Dave Pear
    February 21st, 2014 at 2:53 pm #


    The former Executive Director of the NFLPA Gene Upshaw said; “I don’t represent retired players.”

    So nothing has changed.

    But the NFLPA will continue to beg retired players for $100 every year for membership dues as long as they don’t have to represent us.


    Dave Pear
    Pro Bowl 1978
    Super Bowl XV
    Social Security Disability at the age of 50

  4. Dara Spires
    February 21st, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    Wow, another tragic, yet believable story. My heart goes out the the Duranko family. The Duranko’s were gracious enough to donate parts of Mr. Duranko’s anatomy for research. I trust this research is proceeding full steam ahead. Because, at this very moment we have an new generation of “retired” NFL men (such as my own ex husband and the many athletes/now retired NFL players I tutored from 1993 – 1998 at FSU) who have a laundry list of very serious long term disabilities.) My ex husband testified in court as to the many surgeries he needs but cannot afford because he has NO HEALTH INSURANCE!!!! He played in the NFL for over 8 years, has a Superbowl ring, 3 children, and isn’t even aged 40 yet. How can the NFL treat these men and their families this way? I believe if he’d fallen off a ladder whilst working at Walmart he would have at least received some health insurance with the disability settlement! Had I not lived through this, I don’t think I would believe it. This is such a sad “Dark Side of the Game.”
    Dara Spires

  5. Cody Jones
    February 21st, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    So sorry to hear your story,wish you and family the best. I can only wonder where the hell was the NFLPA. It seems they are concern with active players.

  6. Troy Johnson
    February 22nd, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    My prayers go out to the family. God will heal heavy hearts in due time. When will the retired palyers, the guys who built this league gets what due? Its truly sad!

    February 22nd, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I understand your plight with the NFL, I am trying so hard to hang in there. I wish you the best of luck

  8. Tom Beer
    February 22nd, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Words cannot describe the sorrow I have for Janet Duranko and the boys. I was Pete’s teammate in Denver until I was traded to New England in 1970. He was the consummate husband, father, friend and teammate. I roomed with Pete during Summer training camp and was always serenaded at night with Pete playing Shenandoah on his harmonica. Like many of us, Pete ascended from humble roots in hardscrabble Johnstown, Pa., son of a local tavern owner. He, along with his loving family deserved a better fate than what life dealt him. I will never understand why some players suffer the misfortune of debilitating health issues later in life and others do not. We practiced together, scrimmaged together, played on Sunday together and suffered similar injuries during the course of our careers. Yet, sadly, many of our deceased brothers like Dave Kocourek, John Mackey, Pete Duranko and many others had to endure the insidious diseases they acquired that are attributed to their football careers before passing. Janet, never forget that Pete is at peace with no pain. I cannot wait to see him once again when my time has expired.I am sure he will slap me on the back and say what the hell took you so long! I will never forget our friendship and will always keep Diesel in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you!