Former Detroit Lion Tackles Prostate Cancer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

By Joe Walker

LANSING, MI -- When asked to describe the most humanizing experience of his life, retired National Football League player Freddie Scott paused before answering. “Wow…,” he began, his emphasis on the word lingered as if carrying a pivotal note in a song. A few seconds later he answered, “Having to have gone through the experience of having cancer assigned to me, and coming to a personal realization that I won't be here forever.”

Football players are often described by sports analysts as gladiators of the gridiron, their spiked athletic sneakers impaled in grassy fields, their battle-ready bodies shielded behind helmets and padding. They stand ready for contact, trained to take hits. But no practice drills or in-game experience could have prepared Scott for the impact of prostate cancer. “We make so much out of life this and death that, but I didn't want to dwell on the end of my life,” Scott said.

“What was humanizing,” he continued, “was knowing I had to do something relative to my children; and my children's children - my family.” This included managing their qualms about the effects of the disease. Growing up understanding life through his religious faith, Scott assured he “didn't allow fear to have any authority whatsoever. I handled it personally. I knew, relative to having healing in my body, that I had to tackle it. I didn't allow fear to be seen within me, and, obviously, I had to be in a position to assist any member of my family and friends with addressing that. As negative thoughts came in I had to control them, and not allow them to dominate.”

Now enshrined in the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana, Scott - a bachelor of arts cum laude graduate from Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts - dominated as a wide receiver in the NFL and USFL for 10 years; with Baltimore Colts (1974 - 77), Detroit Lions (1977 - 83), and Los Angeles Express (1983). He admitted he once felt invincible. “There were times when I felt a Superman quality,” he confessed. “From a health standpoint I had the best teeth on the football team, had great vision, I may have had one chest cold or one one-day virus.”

A picture of health during his professional football career, Scott said he “was just this skinny little kid people thought would get broken up.” Athletes do get hurt. Aside from a few normal injuries and bruises Scott managed to avoid anything career ending, though his first injury was not so common an occurrence. While in junior high school Scott experienced his first broken bone after he “played hookie from football practice in 8th grade and got hit by a motorcycle. That was painful,” he said.

For Scott, issues of health have always been important. In high school he joined a future physicians club to better understand the world of medicine. A pre-med student in college, Scott played football while attending medical school. “I couldn't complete my studies in med-school because my football career lasted longer than I thought I would play,” he said. “Then I looked at alternatives, which was more nutrition, health, fitness and things of that nature. I stayed tuned to the medical profession, just in a different way.”

Scott kept his mind tuned, and found different ways to exercise his brain while attending University of Cincinnati College of Medicine with complementary coursework at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and The University of Michigan School of Medicine. Being mentally fit improved his on-field workouts. “I studied the game, I knew my place and the position of my team mates. That set the stage for me to be more consistent,” Scott said. “And that gained the trust of the coaches. The mental element is far more important. And today there's a third element - character.”

Scott's character allowed him to remain composed - for himself, his family and friends - when diagnosed with prostate cancer. His character remained intact after his cancer-removing surgery.

On September 19, 2009, Scott brought his character, and his message about surviving cancer, to Lansing, serving as guest speaker for The State of Our Health:  Through the Voice of Our People (SOOH) 2009 symposium.

“I was excited to be a part of it because it was a panel of professionals,” he said. Scott also noted the venue, New Hope Church of God In Christ (COGIC) located at 6025 S. Waverly Road, made participating extra special. “I was in position to offer, from a ministry perspective, scriptural evidence of certain things, which is huge for me.”

Over 1,000 people attended the day long event that included health screenings and a COGIC sponsored walk-a-thon.

There were also nearly  250 people that took advantage of free EKG’s, blood sugar testing, cholesterol testing, hand massages and more. 

There were also other community panelist available throughout the day focusing on domestic violence, youth issues and diabetes.

The SOOH group also recycled the plastic water bottles and the cardboard used at the event.

Scott said, “The collaboration of all the groups getting this event together is huge, and just getting people to come out is awesome. At the end of the day if just one person decides take advantage of this and get checked out, it was obviously well worth it.”

Perhaps to someone, Freddie Scott's testimony was a humanizing experience.


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