The Touching Story Of Baltimore’s OJ Brigance And His Battle With Lou Gehrig’s Disease

  • Joe Levine

O.J. Brigance is not a household name, nor is he even a current player on the Baltimore Ravens roster, but thanks to his touching story, we now know why he’s as important to the Ravens as anyone on the field.

After Brigance began his career as an undrafted free agent from Rice, he played in the CFL for four years before landing with the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. Despite being a special teams player, and thanks to his hard work, OJ was voted a team captain twice in four seasons. In 2000, he joined the Baltimore Ravens and helped them win Super Bowl XXXV. The next year, he joined the St. Louis Rams and made it back to the Super Bowl, this time losing to New England.

Brigance would be out of the NFL after 2002, but rejoined Baltimore two years later as director of player programs. It was with the Ravens that he was then diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2007 and given three to five years to live. That brings us to today, where the Ravens are still inspired by Brigance’s presence day in and day out.

Last Sunday, more than five years after being diagnosed, Brigance sat in his wheelchair inside the Ravens’ locker room after they defeated the Patriots, 28-13, in the AFC Championship Game. Then he presented the team the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

No longer able to speak and requiring the use of a ventilator to breathe, Brigance said through a computerized device he uses to communicate, “Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are AFC champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible.”

Afterward, Ravens players and coaches yelled Brigance’s nickname: “Juuuuuuuuuuiiiice!!” He then received their embraces, having reached a part of every member of the organization through his courageous battle.

“O.J.’s been our strength,” said Ravens safety Ed Reed, who presented Brigance the game ball. “O.J. took me under his wing when I first got here and everything he’s been through and is going through, to still be the same O.J. and being a light to you and being a light for our team. He’s been like an uncle to me and like a brother. I love Juice.”

“Every day I came out and told O.J. that you’re my greatest motivation,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, who will be playing his final NFL game next Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII against the 49ers.

That’s just a small taste of the extensive write-up on Brigance’s story by Newsday. It’s definitely worth your time and will only add to the emotional backbone currently supporting the Baltimore Ravens. Do yourself a favor and give it a read here.