The Brigance Brigade Foundation has announced it will be hosting a fundraising event titled "Two Rings For O.J." on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at M&T Bank Stadium. O.J. Brigance spent 12 years in professional football and holds the distinction of being the only player to win Super Bowl (Ravens-2000 season) and Grey Cup (Stallions-1995) titles in the same city.
Diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 2007, Brigance founded the Brigance Brigade, a registered 501(c) 3 charity, to raise awareness towards finding a cure against this debilitating illness better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. All the proceeds from the event will go directly to the charity.
The event will be held on Brigance's 40th birthday.
Tickets for the three-hour event are $175 and are available for purchase at www.bcf.org/brigance. For an additional $100 guests receive a VIP reception with current Baltimore Ravens and former NFL greats. The night will include silent and live auction items, including game cleats worn by a member of the Ravens, signed jerseys from numerous NFL players, an autographed photo with Hall of Famers Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, a drumhead signed by all four members of Mötley Crüe and tickets to a 2009 Ravens game and the 2010 Preakness Stakes.
"This event will help raise funds for those who do not get the help we are getting or are not in the financial position we are in," said Chanda Brigance, O.J.'s wife of 15 years. "I know we are tying this in to celebrate O.J's 40th birthday, but the focus of the night is also on helping raise funds for those who need the help. We also want to get the word out on ALS. Since O.J. was diagnosed, we have been able to raise awareness on Lou Gehrig's disease and this is another forum to let people know this is real and needs the same amount of attention as other more well known diseases."
A two-time All-Southwest Conference linebacker and the all-time leading tackler at Rice University, Brigance was deemed too small by the National Football League when he graduated in 1991. He spent five seasons starring in the Canadian Football League, the last two with the Baltimore Stallions.
In the 1995 Grey Cup, Brigance had a game-high 10 tackles and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown as Baltimore became the only American team to win the CFL's version of the Super Bowl with a dominating 37-20 victory over Doug Flutie and the Calgary Stampeders.
Brigance spent the next seven seasons in the NFL, the first four with the Miami Dolphins where he starred on special teams and was twice named captain. Brigance returned to Baltimore as a member of the Ravens in 2000 and he contributed 35 special teams tackles in 20 games for the Super Bowl XXXV champions. He made five special teams stops in the 34-7 title clinching victory over the New York Giants, including one on the opening kickoff.
After retiring from the game after the 2002 season, Brigance re-joined the Ravens organization in 2004 as the director of player development where he urges rookies to earn degrees and guides veterans towards second careers. He has taken the program to another level, being honored by the NFL with four awards during his tenure, including Best Overall Player Development Program in 2005 and 2006. He was an inspiration to the entire organization during the teams improbable run to the AFC Championship game a year ago.
"What I love most about O.J. is that he is always teaching without knowing it," said Stallions teammate Josh Miller, who is on the event committee. "He always looks for the good in people and somehow finds it. He always leaves you wanting more. I know when I am around O.J. I try to carry myself differently. You see how he does things and don't want to disappoint."
During the 2006 off-season Brigance began to notice weakness in his right shoulder while playing racquetball. In May 2007 he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Each year more than 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with the illness.
Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. Although the average survival time for those diagnosed is three to five years, many people live beyond that. ALS doesn't manifest itself the same way in everyone, nor does it affect everyone the same way.
ALS has* *taken its toll on Brigance's body. Once a sculpted 236-pounder, Brigance can no longer walk or move his arms. His once great baritone voice is nearly gone. But the disease has not taken his smile or his ability to fight. With the same faith and stubbornness that helped him to become a successful professional athlete, O.J. Brigance is battling Lou Gehrig's disease and expecting to win.
"He is hanging in there," Chanda Brigance said. "Some days are a little more challenging than others but overall he is a trooper. It can be trying. You hate to see anyone, let alone your spouse and best friend, go through something of this magnitude. It has been very traumatic but because of our faith I truly believe he is going to beat this. We have a different outlook than most. People look at it like he is going to die. We don't look at it that way. We like to remain positive. God is going to pull him through. But whatever way it goes, it is still going to work out for the good."
Brigance has partnered with the Johns Hopkins University Packard Center for ALS Research and has been the honorary chair of 5K charity runs in 2008 and 2009. Those events raised over $350,000. At the inaugural event head coach John Harbaugh surprised Brigance and brought the entire Ravens' team to run in the race.
In April 2009, Rice University staged a "Celebration of Courage" to honor its former star and award a scholarship in his name.
The "Two Rings For O.J." event is the first solo effort for the Brigance Brigade in its desire to crush ALS.
"ALS is expensive so the idea came to create the Brigance Brigade Foundation to assist those not as fortunate as us," said Chanda Brigance. "We wanted to help and give back, doing what we can so things can be that much better for others."