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Christy stays focused on tourney despite career uncertainty

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Thursday, June 26, 2003

Jeff Christy doesn't run to his caller I.D. box each time his telephone rings, hoping an NFL team name pops up on the display.

Even if one did come up, he might just let it ring.

Christy is in no hurry to make a decision on his football career. Right now, his focus is on playing host at the 5th annual Jeff Christy All-Pro Open charity golf tournament Friday at Pittsburgh North Golf Club.

"I look forward to this every year, it is a lot of fun," said Christy, a three-time Pro Bowl center from Freeport who helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win their first Super Bowl last season. "Hopefully, we'll bring a lot of people up from the community and they can see what we have to offer. It's always a good time."

Christy, 34, is pondering retirement after an 11-year NFL career which also included stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals. But he is keeping his options open as training camp time nears.

Right now, Christy is somewhere between a lounge chair and a free-agent contract.

"I have had a couple of offers, none of them monetary, most just inquiring whether I would be interested in coming to camp," Christy said. "I have turned down most of them. So far, six total teams have shown interest."

Christy's decision on whether to retire or make a trek through another training camp may come weeks after the final putt is dropped Friday.

Weighing options have not taken a toll on the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Christy, who will tee it up with former teammates Robert Smith, Dave Dixon and Kerry Jenkins, as well as local standouts Eric Ravotti and Tim Levcik.

The (football) pros will be paired with amateurs.

"Some people think I am in limbo and not relaxing," Christy said. "I am actually very relaxed and comfortable with the situation."

Levcik currently is trying to earn a spot on the Steelers roster. A new addition to the field this year will be Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott.

Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson was invited to the event, but had a prior commitment. Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden will not attend.

The players -- 60 foursomes worth -- will compete in a four-player, 27-hole scramble.

In its four years, the tournament has raised a gross total of over $110,000 for the Freeport Baseball Association.

Organizers had to turn away several foursomes looking to take part in an event that has quietly grown in popularity.

"We figure one more tournament will allow us to start accumulating money to put toward a $100,000 Jeff Christy Education Fund," said tournament director and Freeport Baseball Association vice president Dennis Montgomery. "We want to give every 18-year-old graduate from our teams $2,500 towards schooling.

"That is our long-term goal."

Golf is not the only thing on the slate at Christy's event.

= The sold-out Night with the Pros will be tonight at Tarentum Station.

= A $10,000 putting contest will take place after golf on Friday.

= The always-popular celebrity auction will begin around 6 p.m. Friday.

The auction has become unique to the event the past three years. Numerous autographed items will up for bid, including football helmets, baseballs, uniforms and other items.

Participating signees include Dan Marino, Mario Lemieux, Arnold Palmer, Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Roger Clemens and many others.

Christy sold his house in Tampa (Fla.) and recently moved into a townhouse in Freeport. He is considering building a new home in the area.

Montgomery said having Christy closer to home has been beneficial to the tournament.

"We hope and feel we can utilize him more one on one for the tournament," Montgomery said. "Before, we were doing things from long-range, now we can drive over to his place and get his input."

Christy did not wish to disclose the NFL teams interested in him, but he said one of them has been persistent and has not been ruled out.

"I am not at the point where my decision is going to hold me up," Christy said. "I am going about things as I normally would. If the right situation came up later in the year, I would have to seriously think about it.

"Until then, I am not officially retired and I am not officially still playing."

Additional Information:

Coming up

What: 5th annual Jeff Christy All-Pro Open charity golf outing.

When: 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Where: Pittsburgh North Golf Club, Gibsonia.

Pro football players scheduled to appear: Mike Alstott, Jeff Christy, Dave Dixon, Kerry Jenkins, Tim Levcik, Everett Lindsay, Eric Ravotti and Robert Smith.

Benefits: Freeport Baseball Association.

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