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Former NFL linebacker Terry Tautolo turns life around after being homeless

Terry-TuatoloFormer NFL linebacker Terry Tautolo had a lot of success early in life. After winning a Rose Bowl with UCLA in 1976, Tautolo was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. He won a Super Bowl with the Niners in 1981 and played nine NFL seasons before concussions forced him into retirement. Things quickly went downhill for Tautolo from there.

Not long after his NFL career ended, Tautolo found himself without a home and living in a tunnel below a Los Angeles freeway. He battled methamphetamine and alcohol addictions, which contributed to tooth loss and deteriorating health.

“I’m here now, and I’m grateful,” Tautolo told CBS Los Angeles. “It’s such a bad word, addiction, alcoholism, but it really isn’t. That’s my truth.”

[Related: Boise State recruit lost 70 pounds while homeless]

Fortunately, a former coach learned of Tautolo’s situation and was willing to help. Dick Vermeil, who recruited Tautolo to UCLA and drafted him into the NFL, helped set his former player up with a recovery house in Santa Monica. He has also offered financial support to Tuatolo to help pay for his treatments.

“When you see him…” Vermeil said. “It startled me. My wife Carol was with us, and she was very close to Terry.”

MRIs have shown several spots on Tuatolo’s brain that could be related to concussions, but he refuses to blame his hardships on brain injuries. He isn’t involved with any of the concussion lawsuits against the NFL and insists playing football was not his problem. When asked if concussions played a role in how he has lived his life, Tuatolo had a simple answer.

[Related: Homeless Little Leaguer gets rent paid thanks to donation]

“They haven’t,” he said emphatically.

Tuatolo said he has a large support group that has been helping him stay sober. You hate to see anyone end up in the position he was in, especially when he had so much going for him at one point. Hopefully Tuatolo remains on the straight and narrow.

Bengals re-sign Devon Still so he can pay for daughter’s cancer treatments

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If you pay attention to the NFL 365 days a year, you will probably hear the phrase “football is a business” anywhere between 50 to 10,000 times. Teams are constantly making cold-hearted decisions with the best interests of their business in mind, but there are always exceptions — even in football. Just ask Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still.

Still, a 2012 second-round pick out of Penn State, has not been able to focus enough time and energy on football throughout training camp and the preseason. That’s because his 4-year-old daughter Leah was diagnosed with Stage 4 pediatric cancer in June. As a result, the Bengals cut him.

[Previously: MLB player hits home run for cancer survivor]

However, releasing Still from their 53-man roster didn’t mean the Bengals were completely severing ties with the 25-year-old. In order to help him pay for his daughter’s treatments, the Bengals signed Still to their practice squad.

“I completely understand where the Bengals were coming from when they cut me because I couldn’t give football 100 percent right now,” Still told ABC 5 News earlier this week. They could have washed their hands with me and said they didn’t care about what I was going through off the field. It’s like a blessing in disguise for me.”

[For more heartwarming stories, click here]

As a member of the Bengals practice squad, Still’s family will receive full health coverage and he will be paid $6,300 per week. He’ll also have to travel far less than he would if he was on the active roster. The team has helped put him in position to help fight off Leah’s terrible disease.

“We’re going to go to battle with cancer,” Still said. “She’s willing to put up a fight to beat it.”

Fortunately, football isn’t always a business. There are exceptions to every rule.

Photo: Instagram/Devon Still

Craig Sager Jr. runs in 10K race day after donating bone marrow to dad

Craig Sager Jr race

Craig Sager Jr. sure represents a lot of what being a great American is all about.

On July 4, Sager Jr. ran in the AJC Peachtree Road Race — a 10K race — less than a day after donating 1.5 liters of bone marrow to his father, Craig Sr., who is battling leukemia.

Craig Jr. finished with a time of 1:19:42, which is 37 minutes slower than his time of around 42 minutes last year. But his time was insignificant when you consider all that he accomplished.

On Thursday, Sager Jr. checked into Northside Hospital at 7:30 a.m. for the bone marrow procedure. 1.5 liters of bone marrow were extracted from two holes in his lower back. He was in the hospital most of the day but managed to get released at 6:00 p.m. so he could go home and rest to prepare for the race.

Running in the Peachtree Road Race is a family tradition for the Sagers, and Craig Jr. did not want to miss it. His dad had done 32 consecutive races, while this was his 10th year in a row doing it. Sager Jr.’s mother and two sisters also ran in the race.

Sager Jr. ran the race while wearing his hospital ID bands and a compression band around his back. He still managed to complete it despite how uncomfortable he felt.

Sager told a family member that running the race in his condition felt “Like I have 2 holes in my back!”

After finishing despite his grueling condition, Sager Jr. headed back to the hospital for a follow-up appointment and to have a bandage removed.

Sager Jr. tweeted about the entire experience from the time of the surgery to after the race. Take a look at all his tweets and photos from the surgery and race below.

[Read more...]

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Brandon Belt hits home run for cancer survivor Lyndsey Dworkin

Lyndsey-DworkinBrandon Belt hit one of the most important home runs of his career on Friday night. Believe it or not, the San Francisco Giants first baseman’s blast to right field came during a rehab assignment with the Triple-A San Jose Giants. So what was so special about it? Just ask Lyndsey Dworkin.

Dworkin, a 12-year-old cancer survivor, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Municipal Stadium on Friday. She chose to wear a T-shirt with Belt’s name on the back when she took the field, and Belt rushed to meet her as she was walking off. He then decided to make her a promise.

“I’m going to hit a home run for you,” Belt said he told Dworkin, via Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News.

Lindsey has undergone 31 bouts of radiation and nine rounds of chemotherapy to treat a brain tumor. She was so thrilled to meet Belt that she didn’t even have time to get hung up on his promise. In fact, she forgot all about it until a team employee brought her the home run ball after Belt drove it over the right field wall in the first inning.

“I kind of forgot about it,” Dworkin explained with a laugh. “That’s when I said, ‘Oh yeah, he did say that.”

Belt signed the ball “To Lyndsey, my good luck charm.” He has also invited the Dworkin family to visit AT&T Park when he returns to the majors and join him on the field for batting practice.

Lyndsey, an avid soccer player, attended a San Jose Giants game with her mother Kristine on Breast Cancer Awareness night last season. She was interested in the pink jerseys that were being auctioned off for charity, and chief marketing officer Juliana Paoili later presented her with one after hearing her story.

Now, 1 1/2 years after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, Lyndsey is expected to make a full recovery. We’re glad to see she has made a new friend along the way.

Sharks sign 17-year-old with heart condition to one-day contract (Video)

Sam-Tageson-SharksThe San Jose Sharks welcomed a special guest into their locker room before Tuesday night’s game against against the Florida Panthers. In fact, the Sharks made 17-year-old Sam Tageson an official member of the team by signing him to a one-day contract.

Tageson has a life-threatening heart condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He was born with two heart chambers instead of four and has been playing hockey since age 6, despite doctors urging him not to.

“It’s supposed to be debilitating,” Tageson’s mother Lisa Mills told the San Jose Mercury News. “They said he would be the child that would never ride a bicycle, never do any of that. He rides a skateboard. He plays hockey. The doctors all through the years have said give him golf clubs, take the hockey stick away. We tried. It doesn’t work.”

Mills said doctors changed their approach and have given up on telling Tageson “no,” understand that he will slow down when his body forces him to. Tageson practiced with the Sharks on Tuesday morning and was on the ice to warm up with the team before they took on the Panthers.

“No way to top today,” Tageson told reporters of the Make-A-Wish Foundation event.

Tageson was overcome with emotion after being introduced by the team, and there were probably very few dry eyes in the house. It was an incredible moment and a great gesture from the Sharks to make Sam’s dream come true for a day.

Video via Jimmy Traina’s The Big Buzz

FSU OL Mike Scheerhorn raising money to send cancer patient to BCS title game

Mike-Scheerhorn-Florida-StateFlorida State offensive lineman Mike Scheerhorn will play in the biggest game of his life in less than two weeks, but football is not the only thing on his mind. The freshman is also looking to send a young cancer patient to Pasadena to cheer on the Seminoles.

When Scheerhorn was younger, his brother was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. He said the diagnosis had a major impact on his family, which was fortunate enough to receive help from the Children’s Cancer Center on a daily basis. Now, Scheerhorn is looking for donations to help send a young girl who is battling cancer to the BCS National Championship Game with her parent.

Now I would like to pay that kindness forward, so I’m sending a child and her parent to the BCS Championship game in Pasadena!

I have two tickets for them from my personal allocation, but I need help getting the family there.

The total cost will be around $5000 including airfares, hotel stay, car rental, etc. and it is my dream that together we can raise that money here so that the Children’s Cancer Center will not have to spend a single penny.

Scheerman has already raised more than $10,000. That means the girl and her parent will be able to head to California for the game, and the extra money will be donated to the Children’s Cancer Center. Anyone who is looking to donate on behalf of the cause can still do so.

There should be more people like Scheerman in the world. Talk about a selfless act.

H/T Eye on College Football

Chandler Parsons shaves head to support young fan with cancer

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Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons use to have a great head of man hair. Some would call Parsons, who recently modeled in a commercial for the Buffalo David Bitton clothing line, a pretty boy. Heck, the former Florida star even gels his hair up during games. But on Christmas Eve, Parsons decided there were far more important things in life than his hair.

Parsons shaved his head to support his friend Patrick Hobbs-DeClaire, a 10-year-old who has been battling cancer. Patrick is a twin, and his father said he is more afraid of not looking like his twin brother than he is of the cancer itself.

“His dad was telling me how he isn’t even scared of death,” Parsons said, via the Houston Chronicle. “He is more worried about not looking like his twin brother anymore, so me being his favorite player, I decided to shave my head to look more like him and hopefully give him some support and encouragement from me.”

Parsons did not inform Hobbs-DeClaire that he was going to shave his head, but he told his family to tune into the Rockets Christmas Day game against the San Antonio Spurs. He’s hoping it will be a nice Christmas surprise. Bravo, Chandler.

Photo via Instagram/Chandler Parsons