Joe Ehrmann

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NFL Pro Bowler, Riverside & Syracuse All-American

While many professional athletes “give back” to their communities with involvement in charities and youth groups, few have demonstrated the life-altering commitment evident in the post-gridiron career of Joe Ehrmann, whose humanitarian efforts on behalf of the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden outweigh the significant achievements of an outstanding pro football career.

“The Pride of Riverside”, Joe was a four-year starter at Riverside High on both sides of the ball. A high school All-American and All-Western New York selection his senior year, Ehrmann sparked Riverside to four Harvard Cup Championships. At Syracuse University, Joe was a four-year starter on the defensive line, an All-American in his junior year, and was selected to the university’s All-Century team in 1999.

The Baltimore Colts selected Ehrmann with the 10th overall pick in a rich NFL draft in 1973. By 1975, Joe was the anchor of a fearsome defensive line which led the league in sacks and propelled the Colts to a rapid rise to the top of the AFC standings. Ehrmann played in the Pro Bowl in 1976, and starred for several outstanding Colts teams until 1980. A stint with the Detroit Lions rounded out his NFL career, and he played three more seasons in the USFL before hanging up his spikes.

Joe’s true life calling, however, was just beginning. Beyond the lights and glamour of Memorial Stadium, Joe saw troubled neighborhoods, and people, in his adopted hometown of Baltimore. An ordained minister since 1985, Ehrmann has tackled social issues with the same passion he had displayed on the field. Joe and his wife Paula co-founded The Door, an inner-city ministry addressing poverty, racism, and social justice. Together, they created Building Men and Women for Others, an organization whose mission is to transform the culture of sports, redefine the social responsibilities of sports, coaches, and players, as well as address issues of violence, child abuse, and child advocacy. For his work in this regard, Joe was featured in a cover story in Parade Magazine which called him “The Most Important Coach in America.” Joe is also a co-founder of Baltimore’s Ronald McDonald House, which has served over 35,000 families since its inception, and is a past recipient of the Frederick Douglass Man of the Year Award for his work in preventing violence among male youth.

The word “hero” is easily the most abused in sports. The heroes among us are not those blessed with physical skills, but those who use those abilities and their resultant position in life to better the lives of the less fortunate. The Rev. Joe Ehrmann possesses those skills in abundance, and it is with great honor that his hometown rewards him with induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.