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Football Takes Back Seat to ALS for Titans

Posted Aug 20, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – All football storylines took a back seat on Wednesday as the Titans organization accepted Tim Shaw’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Shaw, who spent three years as a Titans linebacker from 2010 to 2012, announced Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Doctors diagnosed Shaw in April of this year – a devastating verdict after he had been feeling weakness in his muscles since late in 2012.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear,” said Shaw before pausing to collect his words. “Every thought runs through your mind, but as a man you have a choice. What are you going to do? Are you going to stand up and fight for your life, or are you going to accept what someone else tells you is reality? As staggering as that news was and as shocking is it was to hear, I made that choice to live life to the fullest.”

ALS is a chronic and progressive disease that degenerates a person’s nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement. In simple terms, the disease takes over the body without touching the mind – a disease that is under-publicized and under-funded.

The viral ice bucket craze has changed that with upwards of $20 million being donated to ALS research in the past three weeks alone.

“The thing I want to focus on is that there is going to be a way to cure this disease,” Shaw said. “We just don’t know what that is yet but we’re close. This is a disease that’s lacked attention and lacked funding. This amazing phenomenon that’s happening is bringing that awareness and funding.”

Shaw decided to keep the prognosis to himself for the first few months. With the ice bucket challenge sweeping the nation, he knew the time had come to share the news.

“It’s very difficult to go public but it was clear that the time was right,” he said. “I needed to process it out on my own and figure out what my message was going to be. If I came out right away I wouldn’t have known much about it. I wouldn’t have known what I was going to stand for against this and in my life.”

After showering himself in icy water on Tuesday, Shaw passed along the challenge to the Titans organization.

Social media timelines everywhere have been bombarded with people accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – from Derek Jeter to George W. Bush, everyone has gotten involved. With Shaw in attendance at Saint Thomas Sports Park, the Titans took their turn after practice Wednesday – a challenge that hits far too close to home.

“To see those guys that I care about – that I’ve sweat with and I’ve fought with – that means the world,” said Shaw. “To have them stand up in an act representing me is really special and I’m really thankful for it.”

Jason McCourty led the charge today for the Titans, subsequently prompting Titans fans everywhere to get involved.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy and feeling very loved. I’m humbled to have been shown that demonstration,” said Shaw after watching the Titans empty Gatorade coolers over their heads.

Hearing the news on Tuesday was a brutal realization for Titans players, especially those who played alongside Shaw.

“It’s tough. One of our media guys came in and told us yesterday,” explained McCourty. “It’s reality. It’s not something that’s far away. This is a guy who was in this locker room just a year ago. Now he’s fighting a whole new battle. We’ve seen the ice bucket challenge on social media, but seeing someone you’re close to it makes it so much more real.”

It’s instances like this that make the game of football seem insignificant.

“Shaw was the type of guy who would give anything to be on the field,” McCourty continued. “He was always passionate and always positive. Us going out and battling the heat in practice is nothing compared to the fight that he is going through. Like you said, everything else becomes trivial.”

Not only did Titans linebacker Patrick Bailey play with Shaw, but they arrived in Nashville on the same day in 2010. Shaw had been recently cut by the Bears, and Bailey from the Steelers. The two roomed together and remain close friends today.

“It was the first time I’d ever been released from a team and it wasn’t Tim’s.” Bailey reminisced. “I relied heavily on him because I didn’t know what to do. I was freaking out because it was a brand new team and he was there who had done it before and knew what to do.”

Bailey and the rest of the Titans saw the power in accepting the challenge together, continuing the theme of brotherhood they’ve been building through camp.

“Tim was a big part of this organization,” said Bailey. “For us to do anything for him, to bring awareness to ALS, we’re all for it. He was one of us and we want to respect everyone who was with us and here before us.”

Stories of Shaw’s character as a player and as a person filled the Titans locker room. It wasn’t a topic of discussion, but rather the only discussion. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t field a single football-related question in his daily press conference.

The day belonged to Tim Shaw.

“It’s a terrible disease,” started Whisenhunt. “I have a lot of respect for Tim. It’s horrible that he has to go through this, but anything that we can do to raise awareness for it, to help get a cure, that’s important. I think our former players, people with this organization are an important part of the fabric of this game, of our culture, and whenever something like this happens, it’s important that you support that.”

The special teams ace recorded 86 total tackles during his three years with the Titans and spent two of those seasons as a team captain.

Shaw never missed a game over his six NFL seasons and never underwent a single surgery. With his corner full of love and support, Shaw made it clear that ALS has taken on its toughest client yet.

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