Rolf Benirschke
Name: Rolf Joachim Benirschke
Born: February 7, 1955
Occupation: ex football player, ex game show host

Rolf Joachim Benirschke (born February 7, 1955 in Boston, Massachusetts) was a former American football kicker in the National Football League for the San Diego Chargers from 1978 to 1987, and was a former host of the NBC daytime version of Wheel of Fortune (succeeding Pat Sajak) in 1989 (who was succeeded by Bob Goen later on in the same year).

Early CareerEdit

Benirschke attended La Jolla High School in San Diego where his father Kurt Benirschke, a german immigrant, was pathologist at USCD medical school.

Benirschke attended college at the University of California at Davis, playing under coach Jim Sochor. Benirschke was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 12th round of the 1977 NFL Draftm and was then traded to the San Diego Chargers for his rookie year in the National Football League.

In the off-season before the 1978 season, his second season, he developed chronic fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Benirschke learned that he had ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Living with ulcerative colitisEdit

Benirschke's health problems worsened in the 1979 season, when, on the team plane coming home from a road trip, Benirschke collapsed. Benirschke underwent two surgeries to remove his large intestine and he was in the intensive care unit for weeks. When he was released from the hospital, he weighed only 123 lb. and had to adjust to life with two ostomy appliances. Benirschke's ileostomy was eventually reversed in a Koch pouch procedure.

On Sunday, November 18, 1979, Benirschke made his dramatic return to the Chargers in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he did not play, he was named honorary team captain for the game, which was a sellout. Louie Kelcher, a Chargers' defensive tackle, assisted him and held his hand out onto the field. The Chargers won the game 35-7.

From 1980 to 1982, Benirschke was also a broadcasterfor the San Diego Sockers of the former North American Soccr League.

In 1980, Benirschke returned to kicking and played seven more seasons with the team before retiring in 1987, as the team's all-time leader in points scored (766).

Benirschke was named NFL Man of the Year in 1983. Benirschke was also selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1983 season. In 1997, he was the twentieth player inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

Life After FootballEdit

Benirschke hosted the daytime version of Wheel of Fortune on NBC from January 10 to June 20, 1989 after Pat Sajak left the daytime version to host The Pat Sajak Show; Sajak has continued to host the nighttime syndicated version of Wheel since 1983. When the daytime version moved from NBC to CBS, Bob Goen succeeded Benirschke as host. Benirschke has not been involved in television since, but was among the participants in the E! Network's True Hollywood Story episode of Wheel in 2003.

Benirschke founded and later sold a financial services company, and has been involved in venture capital and development groups. Benirschke is the national spokesperson for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America for Hepatitis C awareness.

In November 1996 he published his autobiographical book, Alive and Kicking!

During and after his football tenure, he was also an endangered animal activist who created a well known endangered animal charity called, Kicks for Critters.

Benirschke is married to the former Mary Michaletz; the couple had four children. Benirschke is active in the San Diego, California area. volunteering his time with organizations like the San Diego Zoo, Scripps Hospital, United Way, the Chargers, the Boys & Girls Club of East County and the San Diego Blood Bank. Every year, Benirschke is in charge of the Rolf Benirschke Legacy Golf Invitational, held at the Rancho Santa Fe Farms Golf Club in Santa Fe, California. Some of the money is donated to charities such as the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Show hostedEdit

Wheel of Fortune (Network Daytime version/1989)


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