By CLINT FOSTER
It was a typically wet evening in Seattle, Wash., last Thursday, as fans gathered at CenturyLink Field for the preseason finale: an exhibition game between the hometown Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders. Like most preseason games, this one wasn’t much to write home about, but something happened after a pregame Seattle rain shower subsided that might have left few dry eyes in the stadium.
Derrick Jensen, an eight-year veteran of the National Football League, was honored before kickoff. The former tight end and special teams captain for the Oakland Raiders had spent the last 22 years as a scout for the Seahawks organization.
As a tribute to his service, the Seahawks arranged for Jensen’s family to come to the game and raise the 12th Man flag – a symbol of the spirit of the Seahawks and their fans – not unlike the moniker used at Texas A&M. His mother, Sharleen Stone, is a Mineral Wells resident who traveled to the event. His son, Davis, raised the flag for his father, who has now lost the use of his arms.
Jensen, 57, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain, slowing breaking down a person’s ability to use everyday faculties.
Readers may remember ALS took the life of Palo Pinto Precinct 1 Commissioner Ted Ray in March of 2008.
But how did Jensen – a former football player out of University of Texas at Arlington and a Super Bowl Champion who scored the first touchdown of Super Bowl XVIII against the Washington Redskins when he blocked a punt and recovered it in the endzone – fall victim to such a disease?
The answer probably lies in arguably one of the single biggest issues surrounding the sport of football today: head injuries.