ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, may be named after a former baseball player, but it’s a disease that has touched several former football players, including Steve Gleason.
“We don’t talk about it enough because we don’t want to see the realistic aspect of this might happen to us or we’re (too) scared (to think about it),” former Pro Bowl wide receiver Terance Mathis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “You know how football players are. ‘Oh, that ain’t going to happen to me. That’s just a freaky thing.’ But there’s more guys getting ALS, and there’s more guys dying from ALS, so we’re going to have to address this thing sooner or later.”
Mathis is doing his part now. He is hosting the Terance Mathis Celebrity Golf Classic at St. Marlo Country Club in Duluth, Georgia, on Sept. 19, with proceeds benefitting the Emory ALS Center – and, hopefully one day, people like Gleason.
“That’s why I started the golf tournament to help raise money to find a cure or at least find a way to (create a) better quality of life for individuals with ALS,” Mathis said. “(Gleason’s diagnosis hit) home because it’s one of your peers. It’s one of your brothers. It was Steve Gleason and Kevin Turner.”
Turner, who played for the Patriots and Eagles in the 1990s, died of ALS in March. He was 46.
“When this concussion thing started getting hot and heavy and then when there was possible things that can happen with multiple concussions, I said to myself, ‘Hey, this could be me,’” Mathis said. “Where would we be 10, 20 years from now as far as finding a cure or finding a better quality of life if I would not do this? That’s one of the reasons why I did it. It’s just amazing when you see this person who’s in the best shape of his life, doing what he loves to do, and then everything just shuts down – you can’t believe this can happen to a person that’s in great shape and in marvelous shape. It’s just amazing. It’s amazing and sad at the same time.”
Mathis, 49, played in the NFL from 1990 to 2002, spending the bulk of his career in Atlanta. He is not concerned about being afflicted by CTE or ALS or any other football-related disease.
“I am not,” he said. “It’s funny because I’ve been asked that question a number of times lately, but I’m not worried. I’ve said it the same way every time someone asks me that question: I don’t have time to worry. I have a beautiful wife, two teenage kids that need me right now, and they need my spirit, my soul, and my body to be with them and to help carry them and support them. I don’t have time to worry about it. At the end of the day, whatever God has for me, he has for me. So I cannot sit around and worry about it right now.”
That said, Mathis does wish that society treated these diseases with more urgency.
“It’s sad to say this, but it takes somebody that’s a superstar or that’s a trendsetter in society to come down with something and speak about it before people go, ‘Oh, man, let me help out. Let me see what I can do,’” Mathis said. “That’s just the way society is. Breast cancer, all types of cancer, have been around for a long time. But when a movie star or an athlete or a celebrity comes on one of the big national news stations and talks about it, now everybody goes, ‘Oh, I’m going to contribute to that.’ That’s the way it is in society today. That’s a shame.”