Former NFL Player Tackles Life with ALS
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
CBN.com -This is O.J. Brigance. He can’t walk, talk, or breathe on his own. And yet, as the Baltimore Ravens’ Senior Advisor to Player Development, he is one of the most influential people in the Ravens organization.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens Running Back says, “OJ Brigance is my living guardian angel. That’s as simple as I could put it for him. He’s sent from God. Anybody in his situation probably would have gave up a long time ago. But God is keeping him here not only to spread His message but to let OJ give his as well.”
In 2007 O.J. was diagnosed with ALS commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It destroys the neurons in the brain that control motor function. But that never stopped O.J.
Running Back Ray Rice remembers how O.J. inspired the team last season during their Super Bowl run. “OJ’s messages were always on point. On point meaning whatever he said was right there in the moment and right on time. And some of the messages along the way especially during our Super Bowl run was like, Keep faith. Play for each other. You know, do the things a team would do. That’s when I think the team kind of realized, ‘You know, we can’t take this for granted anymore.”
Before ALS, O.J. was a warrior on the gridiron for 13 years. By communicating through his computer, he spoke about his fascination with the game. “I learned to love the game of football at an early age. I used to watch it obsessively and was thrilled when I got the chance to play in Little League. The sport gave me great confidence and discipline. Besides that, with a name liked OJ at the pinnacle of the other OJ’s success, it was probably fate that I would play the game.”
O.J.’s parents raised him with strong Christian values. He didn’t fully accept Christ for himself until his second year at Rice University.
“The church mother at Brentwood Baptist Church cornered me one day after services. She was known for winning souls for Christ. She asked me to commit my life to Christ, and I did so that day.
After spending 4 years at Rice, O.J.’s dream of playing pro football was shattered.
Shawn Brown, 700 Club Sports Reporter: “You didn’t get drafted into the NFL. Your name’s not called. What are your thoughts?”
O.J. did not give up. “I was disappointed when I didn’t get drafted. Deep down in my spirit I knew that I could play professionally. I just needed the opportunity.”
Even though the NFL showed no interest, the Canadian football league did. O.J. would spend the next 5 years in the CFL making a name for himself. He even helped the Baltimore Stallions win a championship…The Grey Cup. NFL scouts started to take notice but still, no offers. His wife Chanda suggested he call the teams himself.
Shawn asks Chanda, “What prompted you to tell him that?”
She responds quickly, “The Holy Spirit did. I mean, that’s the only place it could have come from. Because when I began to understand that this is what he needed to do, to share this with him and tell him, and encourage him to go ahead—this was his time.”
Well, she was right. O.J. started calling teams and finally signed with the Miami Dolphins. After 4 seasons, O.J. landed with the Baltimore Ravens where he helped the team win Super Bowl XXXV; a feat that made him the only player to win a Super Bowl and a Grey Cup for the same city. After a stint with the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots, O.J. retired from football in 2002. Then five years later, he received news that he had ALS.
Shawn, asks, “Were you angry? How did you feel?”
“I wasn’t angry because I didn’t fully grasp the weight of everything. When I did realize there was no cure, I broke down and cried. After I dried my tears, I received the revelation that God was still here and had us in His hands,” said O.J.
Shawn, “What has your faith meant to you throughout this journey?”
“Our faith in Jesus Christ has allowed us to achieve a higher perspective of our circumstances. Proverbs 24:10 says, ‘if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.’ To stand in the midst of this adversity, we have been in training under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Life has prepared us for this moment, and if it weren’t so, God would have never allowed it to happen.” said O.J.
O.J. is still a warrior with the heart of a lion. Even though he can’t talk, he still has a voice- through speeches, working with his foundation the Brigance Brigade, and writing. He even authored a book entitled, Strength of a Champion. As long as his heart beats, O.J. will continue to inspire his team and everyone around him.
“O.J. Brigance is the ultimate inspiration. It is so inspiring to see where he was and the hand that he’s been dealt, and how he perseveres,” said former teammate and current Ravens Wideout Brandon Stokely.
“That shows the favor that God has on OJ. But OJ shows the favor back by praising Him in all of his messages. I’m sure OJ will tell you, if you go back in the Bible and you know some principles, you go back to the verse where it says, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,’ And OJ’s really living that. He is really living it,” said Ray Rice.
“He says that I’m strength for him. He’s strength for me. Because I still depend on him, you know. I still need him. He’s taught me so much, you know. We have really have connected spiritually, emotionally, you know. And that is what keeps us strong. This is a voyage of three. Not just two. And as long as we have God in the center, everything around it will come together,” said Chanda.
People with ALS are generally given 3-5 years to live. O.J. is in year 6, and the battle continues…
“God has only given us a finite amount of time to complete our assignment, and there will always be stumbling blocks. The key is to recognize those stumbling blocks as opportunities for growth and advancement, not as a deterrence or hindrance. I believe my legacy is I trusted God and made the most of what He entrusted to me while I had it. I hope my life has been a testimonial that with God, all things are possible. There is still more to be done in me, but I thank Jesus I am still in the process,” said O.J.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.