Ted Karras gives experience of a lifetime to lifelong Bengals fan with ALS

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 2:01 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A chance introduction between a family of lifelong Bengals fans and team captain Ted Karras has now evolved into a friendship.

It’s a great picture: a father and son with a team captain of the Cincinnati Bengals.

If every picture is worth something greater, this one is worthy of a bigger picture.

“It’ll mean more to me and my family than Ted or anybody will ever know,” explained Zach Leimberger.

The Leimberger family are good, diehard Bengals fans.

Their family friendship with one of the best Bengals started with a random encounter after Karras’ introduction at the stadium.

“Well, I met Zach my first week in Cincinnati,” Karras remembers. “Him and his friends came up to me. I went up to the Oak Tavern to watch the draft and...”

Zach says, “before I walked away, [Karras] asked me if I wanted to join, you know, sit down and watch the draft. We ended up hanging out the rest of that evening.”

Signed in the off-season to help bolster the Bengals’ offensive line, Karras did more than connect with his new teammates; he connected with his new friend.

“Ted texted me out of nowhere, you know, said that he had found out that my dad had ALS and knew he was a big fan, and you never know when ALS is going to decide to take its course,” Zach explains. “I mean, my grandfather had it for nine years, and my great grandfather only had it for a year-and-a-half, so for me, it’s just like, would this be the last opportunity, you know, that my dad and I would have to have a great experience together. It was huge.”

The all-access experience started on the Paycor Stadium practice field: A meeting and picture with Karras and a seat on the 50-yard line to watch a Bengals practice.

“Zac [Taylor] came over and talked to my dad and said, you know, he was so happy to have him as a fan,” Zach remembers from that experience. “And after Zac was done talking to my dad, Ted came over and had the whole offensive line come over, and they stood in a single-file line, La’el Collins, all the guys, they shook my dad’s hand and, you know, said, ‘hey, Mr. Leimberger, thanks so much for coming to practice,’ which was amazing in itself and after that was done you heard Ted go, ‘hey, Joey B! Hey, Joey B!’”

Zach says the next thing he knew, Joe Burrow was walking their way.

“Joe looked over, and Ted had Joe come over, and he signed my dad’s hat and, you know, asked my dad about being a fan, and I mean he - everything about the experience with the Bengals organization that day was just genuine,” Zach says.

Zach Leimberger (left), along with his dad, Jerry (middle), met Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow...
Zach Leimberger (left), along with his dad, Jerry (middle), met Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (right) after a chance encounter between Zach and Bengals captain Ted Karras.(WXIX)

Energized by the experience, it was as if the day lifted Jerry Leimberger out of his seat to chat with Karras one more time.

ALS is a life-changing diagnosis, but, for one day, the moments with the Bengals made for a lifetime experience for a new group of lifelong friends.

“I didn’t even think I could become more of a Bengals fan, but then after doing that just - for Joe to come over and take time out of his day to come talk to my dad and, obviously, all of the other guys, it was emotional,” Zach explains. “It was fun.”

The experience is not lost on Karras either.

“To be able to share that with lifelong fans and now, hopefully, lifelong friends of mine, I was just really glad to share some of the Bengals with them, and people around here have been fans for a long time, waiting for a long time for this team, and we want to do our best for them,” Karras says.

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