VOL. 38 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 29, 2014
Veteran Titan gives human face to ALS awareness
Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, right, hugs his former teammate, fullback Collin Mooney, after the Titans players, coaches and staff took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. -- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey
A year ago, Tim Shaw was trying to hang on to his roster spot with the Tennessee Titans.
Now, at age 30, Shaw revealed last week that he is suffering from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Shaw, who revealed an April diagnosis by taking the Ice Bucket Challenge, was a two-time special teams captain for the Titans and one of the most respected players in the Tennessee locker room during his three seasons here.
When the Titans released Shaw last year, there was talk around the team that he simply wasn’t the same player he had been. He had lost some of his speed and athleticism along the way.
Now, we know why, and the reason is much harsher and saddening than anyone could have ever imagined.
The early symptoms of Shaw’s affliction were showing even as he was still an active player in 2012.
“Late 2012 and early 2013 for sure,” he explains. “It showed itself in my muscles. You could see my legs twitching, my muscles twitching and it showed itself in weakness in my muscles and the loss of some athletic ability I’ve always had.
“Those were the early season,” Shaw adds. “That whole 2013 off-season, the Titans staff was analyzing me for different things to figure out what sports injury I was struggling from, just to no avail.
“No discredit of their own, I don’t blame anyone. It’s just something you don’t think about. There were MRIs done, and there were tests done, and there were doctors seen. It just never crossed anyone’s mind to go that direction.”
Shaw is at least the fourth NFL player to be diagnosed with ALS, along with former Saint Steve Gleason, former Ravens player O.J. Brigance and former Eagles and Patriots fullback Kevin Turner.
Did playing football lead to their diagnosis of ALS, a terminal illness that ravages the body by cruelly shutting down voluntary muscle movement?
Research hasn’t officially made that connection, but all four players diagnosed with ALS played positions where violent collisions are routine, playing on special teams and at fullback and linebacker.
Shaw won’t blame football for his illness, and says he has no regrets about playing. In fact, he considers himself a miracle, having played seven years in the NFL without missingd a game or undergoing surgery.
“I love the game of football. From the time I first played it as a 12-year-old, this game was for me,” Shaw says. “No doubt about it in my mind, not a single regret.
“The game of football has given me so much. It has brought me so many different places and so many different avenues and opportunities, I wouldn’t take it back. I do think that we need to get smarter as we continue with this game.
“But I don’t blame the game, and I’m not a doctor. Because, guess what, people get this disease that have never played football.”
Though the symptoms of ALS are already apparent in his speech and mannerisms, Shaw isn’t going down without a fight. A strong Christian, Shaw is continuing that daily walk and even remains involved in making foreign mission trips as he fight ALS.
When the Titans open their season in Kansas City on Sept. 7, Shaw will be in Brazil helping dig in the Amazon.
“It’ll be a great adventure, and I’ll be able to help somebody along the way. I’m called to that, and I will continue that with every opportunity.” Shaw says. “I didn’t change what I was doing. I didn’t change my mindset. I simply kept on what I was doing and attacking things that are important to me.”
That Shaw is noble enough to put others’ needs ahead of his own even as he fights for his life is amazing. But Shaw vows he will do the things he loves to the best of his ability for as long as he can.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear, and every thought runs through your mind. But as a man, you have a choice. Are you gonna stand up and fight for your life, or are you gonna accept what someone else tells you is reality and just fade away?”
“So, as staggering as that news was and as shocking as it is to hear and say, I made that choice to stand up and live life to the fullest, like I believe I always have.”
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.