NASHVILLE – Tim Shaw will serve as an honorary team captain for the Titans prior to the start of Sunday's season opener in New Orleans.
Even better, he'll be doing it alongside his buddy, Steve Gleason, who will be an honorary team captain for the Saints.
The Titans and Saints are honoring two of their most respected legends while bringing further awareness to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
"I am so fortunate and grateful to get to be so involved with the Titans," Shaw said in an email on Thursday. "Being an honorary captain for a game would be cool, but what makes this so special is to be doing it with Steve. Steve has been a role model for me since day one of my diagnosis. And not just a role model, but a friend."
Titans coach Mike Vrabel and Saints coach Dennis Allen agreed on the importance of honoring Shaw and Gleason, who both excelled on special teams during their playing days with their respective teams.
Shaw was diagnosed with ALS in 2014, after playing six NFL seasons, including three with the Titans (2010-12). Shaw was named a "Titan For Life" back in 2016, and he has a locker at the team's facility. While the disease has taken a toll on Shaw's body, he continues to live life to the fullest. Shaw regularly attends practices, and he sits in on team meetings. Since his diagnosis, Shaw has written two books, and in 2022, and he received the Muscular Dystrophy Association's inaugural Tribute Award for his support of those affected by neuromuscular diseases.
Since being diagnosed with ALS in 2011, after eight seasons with the Saints, Gleason has also served as an inspiration to others as well. Team Gleason has raised money and awareness for the terminal disease, with hopes of one day finding a cure. In 2020, Gleason was granted the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his advocacy and extensive charitable work.
Back in 2017, Shaw partnered with the Team Gleason Foundation for a golf event just outside of Nashville to help raise money and bring awareness to people who wake up every day battling ALS. Over $100,000 was raised, and all of the proceeds from the event benefited Team Gleason.
"I think that Steve and I don't try to inspire, we just try to live. And that's what is inspiring," Shaw said via email. "I know that Steve inspires me to make the most of my life, so I can only imagine how he inspires others. I hope that by Steve and I being captains for the game, we open someone's eyes to what it looks like to face hard things, and we move someone to take action for a cause that affects someone they care about."
Shaw will represent the Titans at the coin toss alongside 2023 team captains quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry, center Aaron Brewer, defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, safety Kevin Byard, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and long snapper Morgan Cox.
Gleason will represent the Saints at the coin toss alongside 2023 team captains, quarterback Derek Carr, linebacker Demario Davis, defensive end Cameron Jordan, defensive back J.T. Gray, safety Tyrann Mathieu, center Erik McCoy and longsnapper Zach Wood.
"Hopefully we can bring awareness to an awful disease that has taken two warriors and put them in a chair," Vrabel said. "But they are fighting their own fight and spreading the word and raising a lot of money.
"Being able just to see first-hand what that disease can do, from the time that I got here to where Tim is now, it is great that he can come in here and (be with us) and it is always such a great reminder of how lucky we are, how fortunate we are, to be able to do what we do, be able to play this game and coach this game."
The hope is for Sunday's display of unity to bring support for those living with this disease and to encourage the continuing research needed in pursuit of a cure.
"Tim has been a big inspiration to me," Henry said. "Him being around us, he is a light to us throughout the years and throughout the season. Tim is such an inspiration to us, and we love having him around. And I pray every day for him and his family. He's a big inspiration to the organization."