BALTIMORE – Former Baltimore linebacker O.J. Brigance continues to inspire the Ravens with his toughness and leadership.
Only now, he’s doing it while battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Brigance was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2007. Since that time, the 12-year pro has been a source of motivation within the Ravens organization and a key figure in the quest to find a cure for the devastating disease.
Although confined to a wheelchair and forced to use a communication device that translates his thoughts, Brigance performs capably as senior advisor to player development for the Ravens.
Linebacker Ray Lewis, the undisputed team leader, is a frequent visitor to Brigance’s office.
“Every day I walk by, not just to tell him how much I love him, but I tell him that he is the one thing that lets me not complain about anything,” Lewis said. “I played with that guy. Now to see him in the situation he is in physically, but his brain is probably as sharp as ever, it clicks you back in. His spirit is just awesome.”
Playing alongside Lewis on the 2000 Super Bowl champions and starring on special teams readied Brigance for his current, far more important endeavor.
“I do believe that playing football has prepared me for my battle against ALS,” he said.
Brigance’s influence stretches beyond the confines of the Ravens training facility. He and his wife, Chanda, formed the Brigance Brigade Foundation, which strives to improve the quality of life for those afflicted with ALS. The Brigade funds research to find a cure.
“I have found that when adversity strikes, there is a decision to be made. We chose to respond and continue to live, and also help others living with ALS to respond,” he said.