Amid the awe and jubilation of their Super Bowl victory, the Baltimore Ravens took a moment to honor a man who continues to be an inspiration to all who know him, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance.
The night started with a heartfelt rendition of "America the Beautiful," meandered into a seemingly easy Ravens win, featured a Beyonce halftime show and an impromptu blackout.
For a finale, we had a stirring comeback by the Niners fall short and a historic handshake shared by bothers after that Ravens' 34-31 win.
So it makes sense the night would culminate in an emotional turn as a man who played for the Ravens during their initial Super Bowl victory was honored by the winning team of Sunday's big game.
Brigance continues to serve as the Ravens' director of player development, despite his ongoing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
More than any title, Brigance has served as an inspiration to a team that continued to inch closer to Super Bowl victory despite injuries and tumult.
The Baltimore Sun's Jonathan Pitts reported on a man who once helped the Ravens on the field in Super Bowl XXXV, helping them off of it on their journey to Super Bowl XLVII.
Punter Sam Koch put it succinctly saying, "There aren't enough words to describe what that man means to me and to this team. Just seeing 'Juice' here with a smile on his face is inspiring. If I have to choose a word for him, it would be 'powerful."
The sentiment continued on Twitter.
So inspirational watching OJ Brigance on that field during the ceremony. What a guy who has gone through so much adversity. Amazing— Andres Ramirez (@aramirez013) February 4, 2013
Awesome moment with John Harbaugh and OJ Brigance. Awesome awesome awesome awesome.— Eye on Football (@EyeOnNFL) February 4, 2013
A lot of cool stories from this years SB, but still the one I'm most thankful for is the inspiring story of OJ Brigance #TrulyRemarkableGuy— Patrick Casey (@PCASE123) February 4, 2013
Brigance was the Ravens' honorary captain for the AFC title game and it seems the impetus behind their goodwill for their final game of the season.
The report illustrates the early days when ALS began to take over the once stout body, and what follows for Brigance:
One day in 2007, though, he was playing racquetball at the complex when he felt weakness in a shoulder. In time, he felt the same thing in other places. He checked his symptoms online and saw that Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS, was one possibility.
The disorder weakens and eventually kills the brain's motor neurons, ending their capacity to send the signals that operate the muscles. It shuts down functions one by one — limb movement, speaking ability, breathing. The average patient lives, at most, five years.
Brigance is in his fifth year since diagnosis, but still affecting the game with his unbelievable strength as well as his passion for the game.
In a wild Super Bowl that captivated throughout, the best moment had to be when the Ravens gave a bit of gratitude to the man who continues to be an immense inspiration.
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