Monday, February 4, 2013

O.J. Brigance: The Juice of Inspiration

I hope everyone enjoyed last night's Super Bowl! I admit, I'm not a sports fan, and mainly watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. However, yesterday, before the official start of the game, I caught the tail end of a story about a former football player for the Ravens named. O.J. Brigance.

I'd never heard of him, but I thought I'd share his story today since he is such an inspiration!

According to Wikipedia, Brigance played college football at Rice University, and after graduating, began his pro career as a linebacker in the CFL with the B.C. Lions in 1991.  In 1996, Brigance was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a free agent. He was twice voted a team captain during his 4 seasons there and his teammates named him Ed Block Courage Award recipient in 1999. In addition, he was honored with the NFL Player Association's "Unsung Hero Award" that same season.
The next year, he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. 

Brigance was a key contributor to the Ravens' championship-winning team as he finished second on the team with 25 special teams tackles and led the team with 10 special teams tackles in the post-season.  

Brigance was an exceptional football player, and remains an exceptional human being. In May 2007, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig's disease), an eventually fatal  motor neuron disease.  The life expectancy is three to five years.

A Newsday article reports that Brigance continues to work full-time for the Ravens (as the Senior Advisor of Player Development) and regularly interacts with players, coaches and team officials. According to the article, not a single member of the organization hasn't been touched in some way by this former linebacker and special-teams ace.

ALS has robbed Brigance of the ability to speak, he can no longer move his extremities, and he requires the use of a ventilator to breathe.  However, his mental and intellectual capacities have not diminished. All he can do physically is blink his eyes and move his lips. And those who know Brigance say his smile can light up a room.

Brigance communicates through a computer programmed to type in letters and words by receiving cues from his eyes.  Last Sunday, more than five years after being diagnosed, Brigance sat in his wheelchair inside the Ravens' locker room after they defeated the Patriots, 28-13, in the AFC Championship Game. Then he presented the team the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

Through his computerized voice device, Brigance said,  "Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are AFC champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible."

"O.J.'s been our strength," said Ravens safety Ed Reed. "O.J. took me under his wing when I first got here and everything he's been through and is going through, to still be the same O.J. and being a light to you and being a light for our team. He's been like an uncle to me and like a brother..."

As an inspiration to others, Brigance says, "I realize that what I am enduring now is not only for my development but to also be able to help those dealing with the same issues," he said. "I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve God in this current state."  Among other inspirational endeavors, he has created a foundation to assist ALS research called the "Brigance Brigade".

Brigance is persevering against the odds, as well as helping others! Who has inspired you lately?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Old Kitty said...

What a great story of a wonderful man!! Bless his heart! And he is beating the odds with this awful disease and hopefully will continue to do so!

I haven't a clue about the superbowl but yay for his team winning!

p.s. I've asked this at other blogs - why oh why do peeps look forward to the commercials!?!? LOL!

Take care

Shelly said...

When my husband first told me about him, I had to google him right away. What an inspiration he is!

I learned even more about him from your post. He's an amazing man, and it's in the crucible of this disease that his strength has truly become known.

Maria said...

Hi Maria,

I've never been a sports person but......India is cricket mad. I do realise that sports can be inspiring and certainly, there's nothing like the high you get when the team you're rooting for is winning....

Some time back, Ireland and India played cricket. I didn't know who to cheer for. Ireland's my country of origin and I adore it, but India is where I and my husband and family earn our bread and butter.

I remembered how hurt I felt years ago when living in Ireland, Ireland was playing Italy at the football and the Italians were noisily celebrating Italy's win over Irelalnd. No consideration over the fact that Ireland had lost out in the World Cup.... So the answer is simple. I cheered for both and rejoiced no matter who won. Who won? I think it was India... don't really remember....

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I saw this story on ESPN a couple weeks ago. Truly an amazong and inspiring person!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Kitty: He is a wonderful man! About those commercials--it seems that companies try to create the funniest and most entertaining commercials for the Super Bowl because they know they'll have a huge audience. I usually get akick out of them, though I often can't remember what product they were advertising!

@Shelly: I'm glad I could provide more info! When I saw the last few minutes of his story, I had to Google himand learn more too:).

@Maria: How smart to root for both! You can be happy with any outcome;). My husband and kids were rooting for the 49ers, but after I read about Brigance, I secretly rooted for the Ravens!

@Jennette: Inspiring indeed! I need to go onlne and see if I can find the whole story that aired on CBS.

Romance Book Haven said...

Hi Maria,

Thanks for such an inspiring post. What an awesome person to overcome so many adversities.


Maria McKenzie said...

You're so welcome, Nas! And thank you for stopping by!

Norma said...

Maria--I saw this story, too. We hear so much about sports figures who are caught doing drugs or involved in other disreputable behavior, it's good to hear such an inspirational story about an athlete.

Old Kitty--this is the only time the commercials are actually worth seeing!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Norma! I agree--we always hear about the bad stuff, but there are some good guys out there, too!

Intangible Hearts said...

I think you are very inspiring for writing blogs like this! Thanks for sharing this.

Maria McKenzie said...

Eve, you're welcome! I think stories like these help all of us put our lives in perspective;).

William Kendall said...

Definitely an inspiring man!