BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance is the heart of the Ravens, a powerful voice on and off the field. Every day he deals with a disease that saps his strength, but you’ll never hear him complain.
Vic Carter has a story of true courage.
He was a hard-charging, overpowering competitor. Now Brigance channels that competitive spirit into the greatest challenge of his life.
“I have learned to appreciate people and moments of life,” Brigance said. “Not taking them for granted.”
Everything changed for Brigance in 2007 when he felt weakness in his right arm. Doctors soon diagnosed him with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The progressive neurological disease slowly robbed his body of muscle control.
There is no cure.
“Time is too precious to waste worrying about the frivolities of life,” he said.
Now in a wheelchair, Brigance can only move his eyes and lips. He communicates by typing with his eyes on a screen. A computer turns the letters into spoken words.
“I would like them to see a man making the most of a trying situation and still living life to the fullest,” he said.
Always by Brigance’s side, his wife of 23 years, Chanda. She wants people to see her husband like she does.
“Look past the wheelchair. Look past the adversity. Look past all of that and pull out the positive,” she said.
Brigance says part of what gives his life purpose is working in the Ravens’ front office. When the team celebrated its Super Bowl victory this year, it was clear Brigance’s fierce determination inspired the players and coaches.
“For O.J.!” Coach John Harbaugh said.
“O.J. Brigance said it. We’re a team of vision,” said Terrell Suggs.
Even President Barack Obama sent his best wishes to Brigance when he called with congratulations.
“If you guys can let him know how inspiring he was,” he said.
“The attitude I display serves as a constant reminder,” Brigance said. “For the men, all things are possible.”
Brigance is no longer physically strong but the players say he is the toughest member of the team.
“It makes you not want to make any excuses for anything that’s going on in your life,” said Ray Rice.
Rice says he feels a special connection to Brigance because he lost his grandmother to ALS.
“You can imagine what his daily struggles are and he doesn’t make any excuses,” Rice said.
Neither does Brigance’s wife, Chanda. The couple is brave, humble and deeply devoted to each other.
“Of course, we may not have chosen this route, but at the end of the day, we look and we say, `OK, God, what can we do with this?'” she said. “When he smiles, I know everything is OK. I can feel the strength that’s behind the smile and that smile changes the whole game.”
Brigance shares his incredible story in a new book called “Strength of a Champion.” Through the Brigance Brigade, O.J. and Chanda are working to raise awareness about ALS. For more information, click here.
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