TDBH: P.B., Casanova take major honors at Walter Camp awards

Posted Feb 16, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - February 17, 1990

The Walter Camp Football Foundation dinner at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., is the scene of one of Bengaldom’s more remarkable moments tonight when founder and general manager Paul Brown receives the Man of the Year Award during a program he watches one of his former players, Dr. Tommy Casanova, honored as Alumnus of the Year. Brown, 81, is beginning his sixth decade in professional football during a Hall of Fame career he has founded, coached and run two NFL teams. Just last season the Bengals franchise he begins in 1968 reaches the Super Bowl for the second time in eight seasons. Casanova, 39, an ophthalmologist in his hometown of Crowley, La., is an eye surgeon who has done pro bono work for those afflicted with leprosy, “Tommy exemplifies what we value in sports and people,” Brown says. “He was not only a great player, he was something beyond that. He’s no ordinary guy.”

After Brown drafts Casanova out of LSU in the second round in 1972, the irony of ironies is that Casanova’s own medical problems with his knees cut short a  brilliant career at age 27. The last game of his six-year run that he spices with stints at University of Cincinnati’s medical school is his third Pro Bowl. When Todd Jones of The Cincinnati Post hunts down Casanova this week on the Bayou, he finds him just as intense. “I still think of myself as an old ballplayer,” Casanova tells Jones. “I try to compare myself to playing these guys. There’s a few guys in the league today I would love to crack in the throat.”

But these days Casanova is helping rather than hurting. He tries to downplay his work with Hansen’s disease, otherwise known as leprosy,  (“I work strictly on a consultant basis when they feel they need help”), but it’s obviously important work. “Anything bad that can happen to the eye,” Casanova says, “these people get in magnanimous proportions. Contrary to what people believe, it’s not this thing that just eats away at you. It’s actually very nonaggressive.” It’s clear that Dr. Casanova and Pro Bowler Tommy are one in the same. “I try to live my life the same in everything that I do,” Casanova tells Jones. “You can’t separate things. You have to do them the right way or not at all.”

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