Former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who played 11 seasons in Atlanta, was the guest speaker at the 21st annual Art Patchin/Will Weston Celebration at The Richmond on Greene Hotel on Thursday night.
Last week, Falcons coach Mike Smith spoke at the Georgia-Carolina Council Boy Scouts of America Friends of Scouting Leadership dinner.
Bartkowski, who is on the Falcons board of directors, as well as in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor and Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, headlined an event supporting the Art Patchin Jr. Endowment, a benefit that supports health patients struggling financially to get back on their feet while they are unable to work.
Sybil Surrett, senior development officer of University Health Care Foundation, said the endowment began at $25,000 and has grown to more than $700,000.
After sharing his story of being diagnosed with, and beating, colorectal cancer in 2005, the 60-year-old Bartkowski, the No. 1 overall pick in 1975 NFL Draft out of California, drew laughter after joking about some of the lean years he played through in Atlanta.
“If I appear a little nervous tonight, it’s only because I played 11 years with the Atlanta Falcons. I played football in front of fewer people than are here tonight,” he said.
Bartkowski was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1975 and MVP in 1978.
He is a two-time Pro Bowler and holds franchise records for career passing yards and completion percentage. He also led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1980.
Bartkowski joined the board after owner Arthur Blank purchased the team, and he holds Blank in high regard.
“Just who he is as a person, I’m just drawn to him,” Bartkowski said. “He’s a wonderful man. I just knew it was a matter of time before we hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and it’s going to happen. The arrow is definitely pointing up.”
Bartkowski, who is an Atlanta resident, will be back in Augusta in two weeks for the Masters Tournament, which he annually attends.
“My wife will tell you the only reason I married her is her dad had two badges,” he said.