Overland Park Kyle Turley rose from his seat, paused briefly, almost imperceptibly as his chest heaved in a deep breath.
Bathed in glaring white lights, he moved behind the microphone and placed both hands on the sides of the podium, bracing himself against emotion. After quickly thanking everyone, Turley paused again. Nearly 30 seconds went by as he stood in front of the group, lower lip quivering, eyes filling with tears.
"This an emotional subject to me," Turley said, sniffling and dabbing the corner of his eye.
A passionate player the past 10 seasons with New Orleans, St. Louis and Kansas City, Turley has channeled his emotions toward helping those who came before him, the less fortunate former players who don't have the financial means to handle the physical problems that come from years of playing such a physical sport.
Best-known for ripping off the helmet of an opposing player and tossing it across the field, Turley hopes to leave a more indelible mark by raising money for retired players in dire need of assistance. To that end, he's donating $25,000 of his check from Sunday's game at Detroit.
Speaking in front of a group of former players at a restaurant owned by former Chiefs defensive end Neil Smith, Turley gave an impassioned 15-minute speech on Tuesday, breaking down numerous times, leaving those in attendance in silence as his words resonated through the room.
"I'm not afraid to stand here, in front of the Kansas City public, in front of my peers, and shed a tear, because I'm tired of hearing these stories," he said.
Through Turley, those stories are getting a broader voice.
Twice in the past few weeks, the Chiefs offensive lineman has sent letters to NFL players, asking them to donate at least part of their checks from Sunday's games to the Gridiron Greats, a nonprofit organization that provides medical aid and social services to retired NFL players.
Turley has received commitments from around the league, including teammates Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Ty Law, and hopes to get hundreds more. All donations go directly into a fund to help down-and-out former NFL players.