Skip to main content

Bengals Men Of The Year Ken Anderson And Ted Karras Line Up Under Center For A Big Community Push

Ted Karras and Ken Anderson celebrated the partnership of their foundations at The Holy Grail in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday, January 18, 2024.
Ted Karras and Ken Anderson celebrated the partnership of their foundations at The Holy Grail in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday, January 18, 2024.

The time warp T-Shirt has gone public over a beer at the Holy Grail.

The one with the drawing of current Bengals center Ted Karras snapping to all-time Bengals passing leader Ken Anderson, and someone asked Anderson about the greatest quarterback sneak in franchise history.

"It could be Bob Johnson and I," muses Anderson of the center for the first ten seasons of the Bengals. "It was a goal-to-go from the 10 against the Dolphins."

But Anderson and Karras nosed the ball a lot closer than that this week when they unveiled their version of Philly's Brotherly Shove. The Ken Anderson Alliance has joined Karras' The Cincy Hat project with the goal of building independent living facilities for adults with developmental disabilities in Cincinnati.

What has been Anderson's Holy Grail has been goal-line reality for Karras in his hometown of Indianapolis.  When The Hat went viral during the Bengals' 10-game winning streak in 2022, it began an improbable underdog online story that raised more than $1 million for the expansion of facilities at Indy's Village of Merici for developmentally disabled adults and vaulted Karras into this year's balloting for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year as the Bengals nominee.

The award is announced next month during a glittering red-carpet ceremony in Las Vegas a few days before the Super Bowl during the week Anderson turns 75.

"I like to say," Anderson says, "the first Bengals Man of the Year is teaming up with the next Bengals Man of the Year."

Anderson received the 1975 Dodge NFL Man of the Year before a chilly playoff game on the Three Rivers Stadium Astroturf carpet in Pittsburgh when he was a few years younger than the 30-year-old Karras. But he was old enough to drive the Dodge Charger that NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle gave him and now he's letting Karras take it for a spin.

"I haven't been this excited about a project like this in a long time," Anderson tells a crowd of KAA's loyal knot of supporters made up largely of hopeful parents. "I know a lot of you have been disappointed we couldn't have done something earlier, but now it will become a reality and I can't thank Ted and Zach enough for making this all happen."

"A Dream Team," is what one parent called them as they introduced their 26-year-old adult to Karras so they could get an autograph.

Shirts featuring C Ted Karras snapping the ball to former Bengals QB Ken Anderson. Ted Karras and Ken Anderson celebrated the partnership of their foundations at The Holy Grail in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday, January 18, 2024.

"What a great crowd," Karras is saying as he points to Zach Douglas, his teammate at Indy's Cathedral High School then and his business partner now. "He's over there in the red Cincy hat."

Douglas is also wearing a chain around his neck that sports the new logo of Karras snapping the ball to Anderson. Officially Douglas is the principal partner of Paradigm Construction and Development, but unofficially he's still the linebacker who went against Karras in the two-minute drills on Thursdays. And then he'd steal Douglas' socks.

"He'll tell you I never beat him for a sack. Don't believe him," Douglas says.

What you can believe is what Anderson believes:

"When Ted and Zach go in on something, they're all in."

"What we really want to do is change the game and flip the script," Douglas says. "And give adults with developmental disabilities and their parents kind of an outlet with a for sale model where their kids can live in safe communities and ADA compliant homes or units and have a sense of community where we partner with the Ken Anderson Alliance and kind of doing it with a larger social impact."

Or what Mike Makin's mother calls it, "A dream come true."

Mike Makin is wearing a Bengals "B," sweatshirt and a Cincy hat and tells you he is 36 going on 37.

"You want to meet my mother?" he asks.

Lana Makin brought her Down Syndrome son from the Anderson Township condo they share with her husband to this unveiling on The Banks when she got an e-mail from the Ken Anderson Alliance, an organization they know well because Mike attends the dances that are part of the alliance's three-pronged programs of "Engage," "Live," and "Work."

Mike Makin lives in their downstairs pretty much on his own. He needs help with cooking and some personal care needs, and he's looking for a job after he lost his during COVID. But Lina is 73, her husband is 76 and what's next?

"It's so much needed," Mike Makin's mom is saying of independent living. "The community atmosphere. Where they get their support system, but also being part of a community. There are some (places), but not really. They're full. Or there are waiting lists. Or they really aren't in good areas.

"We're at the age where we really have to be thinking. Before it becomes anything disastrous that happens to us and he's put somewhere he wouldn't know what to do. That would be tragic."

Across town, the same thoughts are going through the minds of Steve and Kathy Luhn. They came to The Banks from Delhi without their 31-year-old son Andrew, but he's also involved in KAA and his parents had to be here to lend support.

Andrew has won silent fights over the fight few can imagine. Autism. Cerebral palsy. Other disorders.

But he has improved so much he has been able to move from facilities into a home his parents own three miles away. It is video monitored and there are people to help, but he also has a job, a service dog, and two days a month he eagerly awaits.

"He's involved in KAA's 'Engage,' program," Kathy Luhn says. "Two outings a month he gets to go with his peers. And that's what means so much. The connection.

"He's supported, but there are things we can't give him. How do you give him experiences? That's what it is about. The more experiences he has, the more independent he is, the more confident he is."

The Luhns are "praying," for the day Andrew might be able to move into a place that is now a dream that much closer. The search is on in Cincinnati for land to build the homes.

"There are things we can't show you yet," Karras says. "But we're looking to jump in with KAA and bring those things to Cincinnati."

While he was winning four NFL passing titles in the '70s and '80s, Anderson did much of his community work with Easter Seals. Since he's become the best quarterback not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his passion has become the underserved class of developmentally disabled adults. The inspiration is Drew Cummins the 32-year-old nephew and godson of Anderson's wife Cristy.

"So needed and this is such a big day," Cristy says.

Ted Karras and Ken Anderson celebrated the partnership of their foundations at The Holy Grail in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday, January 18, 2024.

Karras calls it "a no-brainer," move. It began right outside the Holy Grail, Jim Moehring's oasis between Paycor Stadium and Great American Ball Park. During BengalJim's "Jungle to the Hall," event, just after spring ball last year. Anderson wandered down to Karras' table and bought a Cincy hat and they talked a little bit. Both were interested in what the other was doing.

The next thing Karras knew, a case of Kenny's Dey Drinkin' Lager beer arrived at the Bengals locker room for him with a note and a phone number. The next thing they knew, there were talking over a beer at Dickmann's Café in Fort Wright and then another day up at MVP's, a Silverton bar right near the KAA offices.

They sketched out the logo and everything else. Anderson has KAA on his helmet. Karras plays for 'Cincy.' In between, Anderson swung by the Village of Merici on his way back from a trip to Chicago.

"A lot of synergy," Anderson says. "All the proceeds from the Cincy Hat still go to the Village. The T-Shirt is out hat." 

Two Illinois guys. A center and a quarterback. Andreson could have seen Karras on head coach Paul Brown's '75 Bengals.

"Tough, smart," Anderson says. "It's funny. I was telling him I grew up in Batavia and he knew exactly where it was. His wife is from the next town over. In Geneva. You talk about a small world."

"I had heard about Kenny growing up reading my football history," Karras says. "I knew he went to Augustana, a Division III school. Not really the suburbs up there in the north-central part. And, what? He was one of (eight) in our Ring of Honor. That says a lot."

When they were auctioning off each other's jerseys, Karras couldn't resist.

"Kenny was playing when they had long sleeves," Karras said.

"Because this is a mixed audience," Anderson said, "I won't say something not very nice to that comment."

But Anderson made sure Karras got S1,000 for No. 64. It's not going far. The ubiquitous Moehring, who was already picking up the tab, got it.

"Make sure you put it up there next to mine," Anderson instructed.

The long sleeves and No. 14 still sell. His last completion was nearly 40 years ago, but it went for $700. And it went to one of his loyal legion of adults. Abby. Otherwise known as "The Crusher," for her wide variety of wrestling moves. That's actually The Crusher's second Anderson jersey.

"Do you have a job, Abby?" Anderson wondered aloud as Karras took the bid.

Someone asked about that long-ago quarterback sneak with him and Bob Johnson from the 10 against Miami.

"They had two wide three techniques," Anderson says. "I gave him 'The Goose,' and he and I went forward. Nobody else. And we scored. That could be the greatest (QB sneak) in Bengals history."

Then he paused and agreed.

"Until this one."