I swear, every August my body goes into preseason mode. Ok, well not so much my body anymore as much as my brain.
It’s understandable, I mean every August for 18 years I got myself ready for football season. I was 11 years old the first August I actually got to be a real football player. Some how I managed to play until I was 29, going into my seventh season in the NFL. That’s when my body made it clear it was done playing.
I was diagnosed with ALS 6 months later. I was only 30 years old, which I thought was young, but now more and more I hear about people fighting this battle even younger than me.
Last year, I found myself having to get ready for football season yet again because my old team, the Tennessee Titans, invited me to help out with their special teams and named me a captain for the season! They even signed me to their official roster for a day and designated me a “Titan for Life!”
I am pretty sure I was the only person with ALS to be on an active NFL roster post-ALS diagnosis, but thank God they didn’t put me out on the field or I would have hurt someone. Head Coach Mike Mularkey and General Manager Jon Robinson made sure I was still part of the family.
So, I spent the season studying film and trying to help the players improve. I even gave a few presentations to the team about upcoming opponents. I was on the sidelines for every game, home and away. It was awesome.
I don’t have to tell you how brutal this disease is, if you’re reading this, you probably know. From what I’ve seen, I’m thankful that I’m still moving, five years down the road. I battle every day to stay positive and do what I can. I have found that to be a big key for me… battling and staying positive. Each is vital to me in facing another day, in facing every day.
I believe that if God still puts breath in my body, then there’s still work for me to do. I trust that God will give me the strength I need.
The same is true for you—so don’t just sit there! Find something to fight for. Is that your family? Finding a Cure for ALS? Or inspiring a bunch of athletes and fans into finding a better version of themselves?
Whatever it is, get that positive attitude and go after it.
Things are different for me this year, compared to last year. I am using my wheelchair a lot more. My speech is tougher to understand. These things made me unsure about being around the Titans team again this season.
I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. But I found my reason to fight. I’m still here. There’s still more for me to do!
I go in to practice a couple times a week with a positive attitude. So what if I’m in my chair and most of them don’t understand me when I talk? And guess what? It’s good for them to have me around, and it’s good for me to be around my team.
Life is hard, but I can’t complain. I have a reason to fight and a positive attitude. Oh yeah, and it’s football season!
~ Tim Shaw