Former guard Joe Andruzzi’s 10-year career (1997-2006) included three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots but it ended suddenly when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He, fortunately, waged a successful fight against the disease and remains cancer-free today at age 44.
Although he no longer could play, Andruzzi and his wife Jen developed a new passion out of his cancer fight. They wanted to pay back and help less fortunate cancer patients and their families caught in their daily struggles.
The couple started the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) in 2008 and last month the New-England based organization surpassed the $7 million donation milestone in helping families with the non-medical costs of cancer.
“No one financially plans for cancer,” says Andruzzi who originally signed as a free agent with the Packers and moved to New England in 2000 and ended his career with the Browns. “When you’re in treatment and can’t work, those household bills keep coming and the stress that a family feels can be tremendously overwhelming.”
The JAF has helped more than 12,000 families since it began. The organization has connections with 20 health-care facilities in New England that identify patients in need.
“When I meet JAF patient recipients or their family members,” says Andruzzi, “and get a hug during an extremely difficult time in their lives, it reinforces the importance of the work we’re doing each day.”
Andruzzi was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a close-knit family with three brothers who all became New York City firemen. The trio was on the scene and responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Andruzzi himself gained some unwanted attention during the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 when he was photographed amid the chaotic scene carrying an injured woman to safety. We at NFL Alumni are proud of the entire Andruzzi family and salute them and the thousands of other former players who quietly give back to their local communities.