Lions Director of Security Dies At 49

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Detroit Lions official team press release ...

Team’s indoor practice field named “Sandoval Field” earlier this week

Allen Park, Mich.—Ricky Sandoval, the team’s beloved director of security, died Thursday morning at Harper University Hospital in Detroit after a courageous and extended battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted more than three years. He turned 49 on June 30 and is survived by his loving wife, Gael.

Shortly after Sandoval was diagnosed in May of 2006, he and Gael formed “Team Sandoval,” a support group consisting of family, the Lions organization and his many friends and associates throughout the National Football League who also knew Sandoval from his days working with the San Francisco 49ers and with Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), a company that once provided security services at Super Bowls for the NFL.

Gael chronicled Ricky’s fight and provided regular updates on their journey through, the official blog of Ricky & Gael Sandoval and Team Sandoval.

As a dedicated member of the organization, Sandoval touched virtually every person and every aspect of the team’s operations. He was hired as director of security in June of 2001, and for the past eight seasons he managed the team’s security operations. Sandoval handled all team security at the Lions Headquarters and Training Facility in Allen Park, along with team security detail during road trips. During his time with the team, he served as the team’s liaison with local, state and federal law enforcement and public authorities.

“This is a very sad day for our organization and for everyone who knew Ricky,” Lions President Tom Lewand said. “Ricky set a new standard for courage as he not only fought this disease, but did so with incredible spirit, dignity and determination.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gael who, like Ricky, was a tremendous inspiration to all of us as she helped Ricky fight such a courageous battle. We also extend our deepest sympathies to the families of both Gael and Ricky.”

During the past three years, Sandoval epitomized courage and determination as he battled pancreatic cancer and showed a tremendous will to fight such a deadly disease every step of the way.

The impact Sandoval had on everyone who knew him was lasting and profound. To recognize and honor his dedication and devotion to the Lions organization, the team’s indoor practice field, earlier this week, was named “Sandoval Field,” a fitting tribute given his oversight of security at each and every team practice since 2001.

In 2006, Sandoval was named the Detroit Lions 2006 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, which recognizes men of courage in the NFL. The East Side Athletic Club of Baltimore presents the award annually to a player from each of the 32 league organizations. But Lions’ players, coaches and staff universally agreed no one would be a better representative than Ricky in 2006.

Lions Athletic Trainer Al Bellamy announced that the selection would go to a man who had always been a friend—and who became an inspiration—to everyone in the Lions’ organization.

“There was no question who would be our choice this year,” said Bellamy when he announced the 2006 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. “Yes, the award normally goes to a player, but all any of us have to do is look at Ricky—what he is going through and his total commitment to the Lions—and the choice was obvious. He is an inspiration to everyone who knows him.”

On May 30, 2006, the strapping 6-4, 300-plus pound Sandoval was diagnosed with pancreatobiliary cancer, a rare form of the disease. In June 2006, he had a two-week stay in the hospital after complications following his first chemotherapy treatment.

Soon thereafter, the popular Lions’ security director started regular chemo treatments at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Day-long treatments on Mondays were often followed by half-day treatments on Tuesdays. Through it all, Sandoval did not miss a beat as he continued to serve the team.

Throughout his battle, Sandoval was always one of the first persons into the office each day. It did not stop him from patrolling the Lions’ sidelines at all games, home and away, and he was ever-present during team practices.

Sandoval’s work did not stop when his day-to-day tasks were completed. He also led the Lions charge in teaming up with The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer.

Before he joined the Lions, Sandoval worked for Contemporary Services Corporation in Houston, Texas. CSC is a crowd management and events planning organization for concerts, sports and other major events. While with CSC, Sandoval worked a number of Super Bowls.

Prior to his time with CSC, he spent one and a half years with the Stanford football program handling security and team travel. From 1987-98, Sandoval worked in the security department for the San Francisco 49ers. Before he was hired by San Francisco, Sandoval spent 1982-88 as a CSC employee in California.

A graduate of Arizona State University and a southern California native, he and Gael lived in Royal Oak, Mich.Funeral arrangements are pending.