The terms "hero" and "warrior" get used too often in football these days. But, when you come across a true one, you know it. And that happens nearly every day when you pass O.J. Brigance at the Baltimore Ravens' headquarters.
Brigance, the team's senior adviser of player development, is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Told he had five years to live when diagnosed in May 2007, Brigance is outliving the prognosis with each passing day.
His fight and inspiration was honored by the Pro Football Writers Association on Monday, when Brigance received the George Halas Award for overcoming adversity to succeed.
Brigance, 44, has lost the use of his arms, legs and voice and is confined to a wheelchair. The disease, however, doesn't impact a person’s mental capacity. He speaks through a computerized device that transmits sentences he types using eye movement, and he emails every player on the roster to motivate or just connect with them.
“O.J. Brigance is the most influential person in our organization,” coach John Harbaugh said. “In a building of strong men, he is the strongest we have. You are energized each and every day to see how he attacks every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, and we are blessed to have such an inspiring man with us every day.”
Brigance's foundation, which is called the Brigance Brigade, has raised over $1 million for ALS research.