The cards, letters and "Get Well" texts have slowed, but know that Rick Volk treasures them all. When the former Colts safety contracted throat cancer last year, aging teammates rallied around the three-time Pro Bowl selection as they are wont to do.
Old Colts near and far reached out to Volk, a star of Baltimore's 1970 Super Bowl champions, from Bill Curry and Bobby Boyd to Fred Miller and Andy Nelson.
Volk, 70, underwent 36 radiation treatments, plus chemotherapy, to shrink the tumor. He'd rather have run into teammate Mike "Mad Dog" Curtis head-on.
"It's a treatable cancer, but I sure wouldn't wish it on anyone," said Volk, of Glen Arm. His son Eric, an endodontist, discovered the tumor when Volk complained of swallowing while eating lunch.
He began what seemed an endless barrage of radiation, which burned his throat, killed his taste buds and played havoc at mealtime.
"The treatment affects the muscles in your throat so that you have to chew food in small bites," said Volk, who didn't and doesn't smoke. "I'm used to grabbing a Big Mac and scarfing it down in three or four bites, but now I have to take my time. When we go out to dinner, everyone else is finished and I'm still eating. I feel guilty so I'll say, 'Give me a box and I'll take the rest home.'
"You don't realize how much of your life is centered around food, but it's something you learn to deal with. I love chocolate and ice cream but now, after one or two bites I can't taste it anymore. I'll always have issues, but you go on with your life. I mean, it beats the alternative."
Three times a year, Volk gets check-ups to keep the cancer at bay. Not one to lollygag — he played in 62 consecutive games during his nine seasons with the Colts — he still works as a manufacturer's rep for industrial products, a job he has held for 46 years.
Married 48 years, Volk and his wife, Charlene, have three children and five grandchildren, who are spread out from here to Alaska.
"I still play golf, but not very well," he said. "Not because of injuries, though. I'm just not that good."
An All-American at Michigan, Volk was Baltimore's No. 2 draft pick in 1967 and an instant starter. He cherishes his ring from Super Bowl V, a game against the Dallas Cowboys in which Volk's interception of a pass thrown by Craig Morton, with eight minutes remaining, set up a touchdown that forged a 13-13 tie. Baltimore won, 16-13, on a last-second field goal by rookie Jim O'Brien.
"I wear the ring all the time," Volk said. "Sometimes, if I'm doing physical work, I'll take it off and put it in my pocket. Two years ago, while visiting a steel mill in Coatesville [Pa.], I reached in to get the ring and it was gone. I thought, 'Ohmygosh!' and panicked. But I retraced my steps and there, 25 feet away, was my ring on the sidewalk.
"That scared the heck out of me. The ring means a lot, especially since we'd lost to the [New York Jets] in Super Bowl III and then fought our way back two years later. To me, it's like wearing a trophy on your hand."