NASHVILLE – Eight years ago, Tim Shaw let the entire world know he'd been diagnosed with ALS.
His body already weakened, and his speech slurred by early signs of the disease, the former Titans linebacker bravely stood in front of teammates, coaches and reporters who watched him fearlessly do his job on football fields, and he made a promise to fight every day.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to hear," Shaw said of his diagnosis back in 2014, his voice cracking. "Every thought runs through your mind, but as a man you have a choice. What are you going to do? Are you going to stand up and fight for your life? Or are you going to accept what someone else tells you is reality and just fade away?
"As staggering as that news was, and as shocking as it was to hear and to say, I made that choice to stand up and live life to the fullest like I believe I always have."
Shaw has kept his promise, and he's inspired those who know him personally, as well as those who've grown to admire him from afar.
On Friday, the Tennessee Titans are sharing Shaw's inspirational story in a video piece called "A Titans Story: Tim Shaw, presented by Permobil" which documents Shaw's life journey from his days as a little boy to his high school days when he was known as "Touchdown Tim" to his days at Penn State to his six-year career in the NFL, which led him to Tennessee, and the Titans.
Shaw, who played from 2010-12 with the Titans, was diagnosed with ALS in 2014, not long after his six-year playing career ended.
In 2016, the Titans signed Shaw as a "Titan for Life," an idea of Titans General Manager Jon Robinson. Shaw continues to be a frequent visitor to Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park, and since his diagnosis, he's helped raise money while bringing awareness to people who wake up every day battling ALS.
"Tim is a part of us," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said in the video piece, which is being released in two parts. "I appreciate his willingness and ability to come in here and be a part of what we are doing, to watch practice, to be involved in meetings, and to help out wherever he can."
Titans center Ben Jones said Shaw has been an inspiration to everyone with his courage, and strength.
"He's a guy that means the world to us," Jones said. "He never quits, he fights every day, and he puts the team first. If you want to (see) what a Titan looks like, you look at Tim Shaw."
Shaw's road hasn't been an easy one.
And, in a "Titans Story: Tim Shaw," Shaw's courage, determination and strength are all on full display.
The way he's inspired his family, former teammates, coaches, friends and fans is clear to see in the video piece as well.
Shaw's parents, John and Sharon Shaw, along with his younger brother, Andrew, talk in great detail about what their son, and big brother, mean to them.
Former Titans Derrick Morgan, Brett Kern, Marc Mariani – all teammates with Shaw – talk about what the former linebacker/special teams ace and friend mean to them. Former Titans coaches Dave McGinnis and Steve Watterson are interviewed, along with Robinson, Vrabel, and Jones, in addition to Titans special teams coach Craig Aukerman and Penn State coach James Franklin.
"Tim Shaw was a special part of our football team when he was an active player," Titans Vice President of Broadcasting Mike Keith said. "He was a guy that had so much about him as a human being that we all admired and liked him when he was No.59. And so, to see the way he has handled this, being ALS, with such class and such tenacity and such dignity and fortitude, it's no surprise. If you saw Tim Shaw cover a kickoff, if you saw Tim Shaw block a punt against Pittsburgh, you knew that this was what this guy's heart was all about, and this heart has continued even as his sickness has unfortunately progressed.
"Tim Shaw is one of the great Tennessee Titans. But for those of us who knew him when he just came to the team, that's not a surprise because of the person that he is. Even in that moment, we knew."
Often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
According to the ALS Association, the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death. Patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
Despite his condition, Shaw, who turned 38 earlier this year, has continued to live life to the fullest. He's traveled, and he's written two books. He regularly attends practices at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park, where he has a locker.
Earlier this year, Shaw receive the inaugural MDA Tribute award acknowledging his extraordinary efforts to support the patients and families affected by neuromuscular diseases.
Near the end of the "Titans Story," Shaw, in a wheelchair, rolled up to the giant Titans mural downtown. His friends say he's the epitome of "Tennessee Tough."
"To my friends and family: I couldn't do this without you. I need all of you," Shaw communicated from a keyboard on his computer screen that he operates with his eyes. "Your words, actions, and sometimes inactions make all the difference to the quality of my every day. I am so lucky and so thankful to have you."