Titans Motivated by Message From ALS-Stricken Tim Shaw

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw made an impact on the field during his playing days.

Several years following the end of his career -- and after an ALS diagnosis -- he's doing the same in life.

And then some.

The Titans welcomed Shaw back to Saint Thomas Sports Park on Sunday night, when he spoke to players during a team meeting on the third night of training camp. When Shaw stepped away from the podium, the Titans gave him an ovation as many of them battled their emotions.

"It was very deep,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. "It made me emotional. I think everybody looked at their life now and realized we complain about coming to practice, and this man doesn't complain about what he has to live with every day, knowing the outcome. I think it hit everybody deeply.

"I have so much respect for him, just how he lives life. He still lives life to the fullest."

Shaw, 32, said he hopes his meeting with the team "made a difference."

"Just to be thought of and to be asked, it really does make you feel good,'' Shaw said. "I do want people to realize how important every day is, and just to have me standing in front of them, maybe it is a reminder. … You should enjoy every day in life, and the NFL is really that way, too.

"Things can be going great and then an injury hits and everything changes. So you have to make the most of every day."

A fifth-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2007, Shaw played three seasons in Tennessee (2010-2012) and six NFL seasons in all, with the Panthers, Bears and the Titans, where he was a captain for two seasons. Shaw was released following training camp in 2013, when he first began noticing something different about his body.

Several months later, Shaw was diagnosed with the deadly disease ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. According to the ALS Association, the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death. Patients in the latter stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

In August 2014, Shaw was at STSP when the entire team did the "Ice Bucket Challenge."

Shaw's physical condition has deteriorated further since. In a video shown to the team before Titans cornerback Jason McCourty introduced him on Sunday night, Shaw talked about what he's gone through in the past few years.

"Every day is a fight,'' Shaw said. "Every day there is something that I have to wrestle with. At this point in my life it literally might be putting on my socks, or brushing my teeth because my hands are struggling and they are quitting on me. So I have to physically and mentally fight just to do the normal things I have done my whole life.

"What I would really hope is for people to look at their own lives and decide what they want to do differently… to make others better."

On Sunday night, Shaw delivered a message to the team about fighting for one another – as a team.

"If you weren't affected by his speech in a lot of ways, then this is not important to you, and you are in the wrong business,'' coach Mike Mularkey said. "It was extremely powerful coming from a former teammate, a former player. It came directly from his heart. It was not scripted. I know when we split up to go to individual meetings, no football was talked about for 20-30 minutes. It was hard to get up and talk to the team after.

"Tim talked about our team, what it takes to win, teams he has been on. And he nailed it… I could've said the same thing and I wouldn't had a quarter of an impact that he had."

Mularkey said he has extended an invitation to Shaw to be around as much as he wants to be.

"He is what we are, and what we want to be – tough, dependable, team first. He was always that, and he still is,'' Mularkey said. "I asked him to be a part of this team. He was all fired up until I told him we had an 11 o'clock curfew. Then he was like, wait a second.

"But seriously, I want him around. He is a part of this team. The team wants him around."

With a smile, Shaw said he hopes to take Mularkey up on his offer. He said he's "struggling well" as he tries to set a good example for those around him.

"Life is hard,'' Shaw said, "but I am doing OK. And I am just trying to keep going and enjoy it along the way."

Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, teammates with Shaw for several seasons, said Shaw's fight and "effort to live every day to the fullest" came through loud and clear.

McCourty said the room was quiet when Shaw finished his 15-20 minute speech that won't soon be forgotten.

"For myself, I got a chance to play with Timmy for a few years, and what he spoke to us about, just trying to win the day, that's a big thing for us,'' McCourty said. "Myself, I am at a point in my career where winning is everything. It always has been, but as you get into Year 8 and you realize you are running out of time, that's what it is all about.

"Tim Shaw is one of us. And for me, Eric LeGrand who I played with at Rutgers, he is now paralyzed. When you see things like that happen in life, you realize, that could be any one of us. Those guys were in locker rooms, they were laughing, they were joking, and they were right there with us.

"It wasn't that long ago when Timmy was out there with us, and to see him now, he is not in the same condition. But to see him stand up and his attitude toward life and his willingness to give back and be able to help others, I think it puts life in perspective and shows us we shouldn't take anything for granted. We should take pride in the moments we have in our life right now and getting the opportunity to live out our dreams."

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