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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
Not only did Titans linebacker
“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.
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.