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My mom, who had Alzheimer’s, died after a stroke earlier this year. It was not a shock that she suffered a stroke.

I’ve had friends who had strokes which have changed their lives to varying degrees. Some have been far more severe than others.

But when a professional athlete suffers a stroke it seems surreal. If I recall correctly, J.R. Richard’s career as a top pitcher for the Astros was derailed by a stroke. When Tedy Bruschi had a stroke shortly after winning a third Super Bowl I was shocked. He was a fan favorite on the Patriots’ defense that helped them to those first three championships.

His story is found in the book, written with Michael Holley, Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery & My Return to the NFL. The subtitle just about says it all. The focus is on those three things.

He gives a little back of his background before the stroke, but the great bulk of the book is about the stroke and the next few years of his life.

Tedy grew up in California, familiar with hardship due to poverty and divorced parents. This shaped him. He kept his goals in mind, and financial security was one of those goals. He negotiated most of his own contracts, so it wasn’t about maximizing income (because he also wanted to win) but rather in terms of living within his means and minimizing debt so he could pay it off quickly.

He talks briefly about his time at the University of Arizona but mostly because that is where he met his wife, Heidi, who played volleyball there. His in-laws still live here in Tucson. We learn he was a party boy as well until he realized he could be that and a dad at the same time. Tedy no longer drinks as a result. He briefly discusses his Catholic faith.

Where he centers in are the events leading up to the stroke, including his time with Tom Brady at the Pro Bowl after winning that Super Bowl. He and Tom set a goal of 3 Super Bowl victories in a row. After that game Tom went of vacation while Tedy flew home: a flight they think may have contributed to his stroke.

The immediate results of the stroke were devastating emotionally. His vision was impaired as well as his body weakened. There was a chance he’d never play football again, and he thought he never would. He initially retired. He wasn’t sure he’d recover physically, and whether the hole in his heart that caused it could be repaired so he could play.

You get a glimpse into the role relationships play with Tedy. Some were teammates like Tom, Vrabel, Rodney and Fauria. At times his relationship with Bob Kraft was affected due to the business of the game. Tedy was frustrated by the official statements and that is understandable. He paints a picture of the other side of Belichick, the side we don’t see. There is a human being in there who cared about Tedy and provided some wisdom in the midst of the stroke confusion.

It was the new relationships that mattered in his recovery, and subsequent return to football. There was a battery of doctors that became essential, and the physical therapist who pushed him and respected his privacy by not telling people she was working with Tedy. Some of the doctors were brought in by Bob Kraft to help Tedy and his wife make wise decisions about whether to return.

This was a difficult decision. They each had to deal with their own fears, but he was ready to reconsider his future before she was. There was a lengthy period of tension and distance which was unusual for them, as she resisted his push. She needed her husband, not a football player. Tedy is pretty honest about something most people would want to downplay.

One of the unexpected relationships was with Trisha Meili. She was the victim of the rape and beating in Central Park that was attributed to the Central Park five (she wrote I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility). Hearing her speak about her recovery, and loss, was inspiring to him and Heidi. He also began to realize all he’d still have if he never had football again.

In terms of football, the focus is on his first two seasons after the stroke. I really wish they would have updated the book to include the near-perfect season. This is my one complaint. But you get a glimpse of how he understands who to play the game: communication, teamwork and ferocity.

I found this to be an interesting story about perseverance, overcoming fears as well as physical limitations. While he is honest about his past, he doesn’t glorify his drinking to excess. It does capture his competitive nature well. Michael Holley, as usual, does a good job capturing the voice of the man while making it interesting and readable.

This is brief because it is a book I read while donating plasma. This means I can’t underline anything. As a result I’m working on memory and impressions.

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