WASHINGTON - Raleigh DeGeer Amyx of Warrenton, Va., is proud of the complete set of Washington Super Bowl rings he has collected - a set of three, marking the team's three championships. But Amyx says it's a shame that he has all three.
Former Washington defensive back Alvin Walton probably feels the same way. Two of the rings in Amyx's collection were Walton's. According to the ex-player, his wife used them to raise some cash from a pawnbroker. She apparently hoped to redeem them when the family's situation improved. But it didn't improve, and the pawnbroker sold the two rings to Amyx.
The rings - crafted by Tiffany & Co., encrusted with diamonds and laden with memories of athletic achievement - fetched "in the neighborhood of $20,000," the pawnbroker said.
Neither Walton, who last year filed for bankruptcy protection, nor Amyx would discuss the price.
"I don't really deserve this," Amyx said. "I'm no world champion. I'm just a collector."
Walton, 32, earned at least $1.1 million in a six-year NFL career that ended after a shoulder injury. His loss places him in the company of renowned athletes such as Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson of the Dallas Cowboys and Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers who were forced to sell Super Bowl rings after their lucrative playing days had passed.
Such difficulties point up the problems faced by young men attempting the transition from sports celebrity to former player, according to NFL alumni and those who study professional athletics.
Players are idolized and pampered during their playing days, but can leave the game naive, untrained in financial management and easy prey to unscrupulous partners. Some end up broke.
It is unclear what circumstances led Walton to the point at which he lost his rings. He and his wife, Janet Marie Walton, filed last year in federal bankruptcy court for protection from creditors.
Walton, a safety, played his last NFL game came in September 1991, a victory at Dallas during which he suffered his shoulder injury.
Washington drafted Walton after he had spent two years in junior college and one year as a player at the University of Kansas. He was ruled academically ineligible to compete during what would have been his senior year in 1985, and he never earned a degree.
After Washington, Walton worked for Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service and attended barber school. In 1994 and '95, he played for the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League, earning about $55,000 a year.
He said his wife had taken the rings to the pawnshop without his knowledge and that she expected to redeem them before he knew they were gone.
Amyx is a full-time collector of presidential, sports and other memorabilia. He said possessing the '87 and '91 rings completed his set of Washington championship rings. More than a year earlier, Amyx said, he purchased a ring from a player on the team's 1983 Super Bowl team.
"Almost no one would have the trio," Amyx said. He pledged never to sell the rings to anyone but their original owners "even though it might break my heart not to see them again."