Rookie, 61, is oldest football pro


LINCOLN CITY — A 61-year-old businessman whose lifelong dream has been to play professional football was drafted to be the newest member of the South Beach Silverbacks, a Miami, Fla., one of 12 teams in the Rivals Professional Football League.

Mark Eberwine recently made the cut for a roster otherwise loaded with young college and semi-pro talent, including players from the Canadian Football League and the Dallas Vikings semi-pro team. The next-oldest player on the team is Eberwine’s 25-year-old son, David, another wide receiver.

“I didn’t throw up and I didn’t quit during the tryouts,” said Eberwine, who earned his slot with an 05:43 sec. time in the 40-yard-dash and hands that were sticky as fly paper. “Probably more than my speed was the desire.”

Top Rivals football league players earn up to $65,000 per year.

Eberwine’s connection to the Oregon coast goes back 15 years. A San Antonio, Texas, home inspector, he travels to Lincoln City two or three times a year to train with his martial arts guru and football mentor, Robert Dempewolf, owner of Taft Athletic Club.

“We lift weights, do karate for flexibility and play beach football until we’re wrung out,” said Dempewolf, who is traveling to Florida next week to attend Eberwine’s first game with the Silverbacks.

He described beach football as a scratch game with other wet-suited players where Eberwine runs patterns and other football drills. Dropped passes or other errors result in a push-up penalty. Dempewolf said he was pleased to see his friend achieve a lifetime goal, but not surprised.

“This is not a publicity stunt,” Dempewolf asserted. “Mark’s numbers were as good or better than the other hopefuls. When the other guys needed a break, Mark kept pushing. He never said no. He was the first guy on the practice field and the last to leave.”

Standing six-one and weighing 212 lbs., the 1970 high school graduate had just one year of football to his credit before a motorcycle accident ended his prep career. After years of healing, he played B-League football for the Orange Coast (Calif.) Pirates and appeared at tryouts for the NFL, CFL and their affiliated feeder teams.

“Beach football taught me to keep my eye on that miserable, dripping-wet ball,” he chuckled. “I hated having to do all those pushups.”

Eberwine, assessing the young, hard-hitting talent in the Rivals league, said he is focused on getting through his first game on Feb. 9 of three scheduled before a league championship.

“I turn 62 on April 7,” he said. “If we make the playoffs, I’ll collect social security and play professional football the same weekend.”

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