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Thursday, March 1, 2007
Ex-Cowboy Walls gives kidney to former teammate

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Ron Springs and Everson Walls will always share a bond forged over their years as teammates on the Dallas Cowboys. That's nothing compared to their newest link -- the kidney Walls donated to Springs.
More than teammates
Earlier this year, Greg Garber profiled the bond between Ron Springs and Everson Walls -- and the gift from Walls that could save his friend's life. Story

Springs and Walls were recovering at Medical City Hospital on Thursday, a day after becoming the first former U.S. professional athletes to undergo an organ transplant.

"That's brotherly love," Springs told The Associated Press in December. "It's something you can't explain, but something that I will always think about every day for the rest of my life."

The former football stars and their doctors are scheduled to hold a news conference Friday. The players hope they can inspire others to become organ donors by sharing their story.

The only other known transplants involving former pro athletes as donors include Greg Ostertag giving a kidney to his sister in 2002 when he was playing for the Utah Jazz, and basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson donating a kidney to his daughter in 1997. Several pro athletes have received an organ, with basketball players Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliott returning to play in the NBA following their ordeals.

Springs, 50, has suffered from diabetes for 16 years and has been on the national transplant waiting list since 2004. The disease has led to the amputation of his right foot and the big and middle toes on his left foot, and caused his hands to curl into knots. He also was forced into a wheelchair and needed dialysis three times a week.

Providing his body accepts Walls' kidney, Springs will no longer need dialysis and can expect his hands to regain their normal form. He also should again be able to walk on his own.

"It's like getting a new battery in a car," Springs said in December. "I'll be able to be back to basically almost 100 percent normal."

Walls, 47, volunteered to be tested after things fell through with two of Springs' relatives who were perfect matches.

"I said, 'Well, look, I know my blood type is the same as his. Why not give it a shot and see what happens?"' Walls said in December.

Springs and Walls became fast friends during Walls' first training camp with the Cowboys. They played together only four years (1981-84), but their close relationship continued, enhanced by their wives and children being close with each other, too.

The duo had wanted to keep the transplant quiet until it happened, but word leaked in December through Springs' oldest son, Shawn, who plays cornerback -- Walls' old position -- for the Washington Redskins.

Ron Springs joined the Cowboys in 1979 and became a starter alongside Tony Dorsett in '81, the year Walls arrived as an undrafted rookie from Grambling. Springs left in 1985, finishing his career with two seasons in Tampa Bay.

Walls led the NFL in interceptions his first two seasons and again in '85, making him the only three-time leader in NFL history. He picked off 57 passes and made the Pro Bowl four times over his 14-year career, which included stints with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.