Harrell battles MS his own inimitable way

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
10:17
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sam Harrell doesn't want any sympathy or pity.

In fact, after the Ennis, Texas, high school football coach was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he was struck by the many blessings in his life.

J. Louise Larsen of the Waxahachie Daily Light has an uplifting story about Harrell, a two-time Texas Class 4A state championship coach who had the chance to coach all three of his sons during his career. One of them, Graham, went on to become the NCAA career leader in touchdown passes at Texas Tech.

Sam was diagnosed with MS in 2005. His own boys didn't learn about it until earlier this spring.

"We chose to keep it quiet for several years. We didn't even tell our boys because we didn't want them worrying about it," Harrell told the Light. "They had an idea something was wrong. I didn't ever go out and shoot baskets with them any more, I didn't play tennis with them, I can't mow the yard, I can't do anything you ought to be doing. They had an idea - we never told them exactly what Dad had.

"I wasn't in denial. I knew I had it, but it would kind of come and go. My hope was that it would go more often than it would come."

Harrell is on medication and eventually hopes to travel outside his beloved Texas for treatment with one of the experimental procedures he has learned about.

"Outside the U.S., some things are being done that people have had phenomenal results with, and that's been encouraging. I really think there's going to be a cure for it - that's what I'm hoping for. It's been encouraging to hear those stories and talk with people," Harrell said.

Through it all, he remains upbeat with the same tenacity that has marked his coaching career.

"People don't die from MS ... I don't want to make is sound like it's poor pitiful me ... a lot of people are facing tougher things than that," he said. "It takes away the things you do, but it doesn't take away your life."

I've known the Harrells for many years and have always been impressed with their family. The story about how Graham battled through nine separate breaks in two of his fingers to beat Baylor last season was one of the most inspirational ones in college football.

And after reading about his dad, it shows me where Graham got a lot of the moxie and toughness he always exhibited in leading the Red Raiders.

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