Former Browns and Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio by helping protect quarterbacks from oncoming defenders and clearing space for running backs. Though he is retired from the game, his willingness to help others has not gone away.
DeLamielleure has a new challenge in front of him, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Founded in 2002, the Wounded Warrior Project raises public awareness on the needs of injured soldiers, assists wounded service men and women aid one another and provides programs to meet the needs of these veterans.
“Ken Huff, who played with the Colts and the Redskins, knew that I had bicycled to Mexico the year before, felt I was in shape and called,” DeLamielleure said via telephone from his home in North Carolina. “He’s already done it twice, but not with Wounded Warriors. He called me up and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it. In a heartbeat, I’ll do it.’”
DeLamielleure feels physically ready for the challenge, especially after taking an 18-day bicycle trip from East Lansing, Michigan to Shinsky Orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. That ride was the idea of John Shinsky, a former Michigan State football player who grew up at Parmadale Orphanage in greater Cleveland after his father passed away from a heart attack.
“We got three miles off campus and I said, ‘How much farther?’ They said, ‘Two-thousand, nine-hundred, ninety-seven miles,’” said DeLamielleure. “I never rode a bike as a child, so I just started training two weeks before that. I mean really training hard, riding a bike and all that stuff. I made that. Ken saw the story and said, ‘If you can make that, you can make this, easy.’ This has a purpose. I want to do things that have a purpose. It’s obvious how much the wounded warriors need us.”
DeLamielleure was inspired and motivated to attempt the climb because of U.S. Army Sergeant Tommy Rieman, whom he met at the Hall of Fame a few years back.
“He’s a Silver Star, Purple Heart and had been shot in Iraq,” DeLamielleure recalled. “A lot of these guys have issues and he told me about what’s going on with the wounded warriors, with the guys coming home and all the problems they’re having. I thought, ‘Man, if I could, I’d like to help.’ Then, Ken called me and I said, ‘This is an answer to a prayer.’
“I kind feel an obligation to the country since we’ve been at war for ten or 11 years now and all these people going over there,” he continued. “I never served. I’m one of ten kids and I’ve got two brothers who served. I’ve always felt kind of bad that I never served the country and I thought this would be a good way of giving thanks back to the guys who serve the country for us.”
To learn more about the journey or to donate to the trip, visit http://www.bootsandcleatsonthesummit.com/.