A Superbowl MVP is coming to play golf with Steven Adams in New Zealand.

Mark Rypien, who won the coveted NFL title — and ring — with the Washington Redskins in the 1991-92 season, admires Adams both as a basketballer and a charity worker who is trying to introduce students to play through the Sports Pathways Trust.

The 55-year-old crack golfer has twice won the American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament held in Nevada each July.

He will enter again this year, before visiting New Zealand for the first time to play the Steven Adams Invitational on August 17 at Windross Farm.


The pair are linked courtesy of the NFL player's long-standing friendship with Kelsen Butler. Butler is the managing director of Sports Inc, the organisation which partners with Adams to host the tournament.

"I think what Steven's doing for youth, by introducing them to basketball and taking it back into their communities, is remarkable," Rypien says.

"Anything we can do for youth is so impactful."

Adams' efforts struck a chord with Rypien's past. He and first wife Annette lost their three-year-old son Andrew to brain cancer in 1998.

The Rypien Foundation was established in 2004 to help cancer-stricken children and families in the United States' north-west.

That was a low point, and for two to three years, it was real difficult finding what to do with my life ... that's not the way the circle of life is meant to be.

A children's emergency centre came in 2013 and has provided care for almost 100,000 people.

Rypien spoke to the Herald on the 20th anniversary of Andrew's death.

"That was a low point, and for two to three years, it was real difficult finding what to do with my life.

"There was depression, and a lot of things anyone would go through, because that's not the way the circle of life is meant to be.

"But [the foundation has] given us an opportunity to honour him and provided an opportunity for me to heal a bit, too ... at least as much as I can."

The smiles of children and families benefiting from the treatment offers catharsis, although Rypien says life can still be difficult when birthdays and family holidays fall.

The former quarterback has also advocated for retired NFL players' well-being, particularly those suffering mental health issues due to head trauma received during their careers.

Rypien was the lead plaintiff alongside 4500 former NFL players to exact a settlement of US$765 million — but no concessions of fault — from the league as part of a new chapter on brain injuries.

"I went through some serious bouts of depression and some compulsive things that I struggled with and got help," he says.

"I want all the NFL guys out there who struggle with depression, and situations where they're turning to opioids or alcohol, to know they can get help."

Rypien's latest idea involves an app.

"It'd be similar to what the military call 'got your six' — meaning 'got your back' or 'six o'clock'. It would involve getting six close people supporting them when they get into a dark place, because suicide rates for teenagers and the military have reached epidemic levels in the state of Washington.

"The guys in the NFL have to look out for each other, especially given
we are dealing with depression, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and things that came from the game we play and love and watch.

"If we could get support around to deal with situations that I and others have gone through, I think we can help."

At face value, the NFL can appear glamorous; a place where money, fame and glory vie for top billing.

Rypien has experienced the full gamut of emotion after guiding the Redskins to victory over the Buffalo Bills at Superbowl XXVI in Minneapolis.

"It was a surreal week that went so fast. I wanted to make sure everyone closest to me was there.

"To have your name introduced before the game, the national anthem prior to kickoff and the nerves and adrenaline going, made it an unforgettable experience. You can take a picture, or you can see something beautiful and have that image in your head for the rest of your life.

"It opened doors for other things, like the foundation, because you can go to corporate people around the country to get them involved."

Then there was the downside.

"We didn't practise without contact, we practised full on.

"There were not necessarily concussions during the game, week-to-week. It helps if you can give the brain a chance to rest and an opportunity to heal. The problems were more about the concussions at practice and training camps.

"People are playing contact sport from seven or eight years old and the brain doesn't fully form until 21-25. One way of making it safer might be by not having contact during practice, or doing virtual practice."

Rypien and second wife Danielle are booked for a comprehensive New Zealand experience.

That means playing at the Tara Iti Golf Club, indulging in Waiheke Island's wineries, fishing for Lake Taupo trout and sampling a Rotorua hangi. Rypien also hopes Gollum doesn't mistake his Super Bowl ring for "little precious" at Hobbiton.

It has proven the catalyst, for better or worse, to most of his life experiences.