Steve McMichael, a longtime NFL defensive tackle who was an All-Pro for the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Bears, has announced that he has ALS.
McMichael gave an interview to Jarrett Payton, the son of Walter Payton, who is a broadcaster for WGN in Chicago, in which he looked gaunt and said he is no longer able to make public appearances.
“I’m not going to be in the public anymore,” McMichael said. “You’re not gonna see me out doing appearances. I can’t even sign my name anymore.”
ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Those who suffer from ALS gradually lose their ability to move their muscles and eventually lose their ability to speak, eat and breathe.
Other former NFL players who have been diagnosed with ALS include Steve Gleason, Dwight Clark, O.J. Brigance, Tim Green and Kevin Turner. Some neurologists believe there is a link between head trauma suffered on the football field and the development of ALS, although the ALS Association says more long-term studies are needed for a full understanding of the connection between football and ALS.
The 63-year-old McMichael had a College Football Hall of Fame career at Texas and was a third-round pick of the Patriots in 1980. New England cut him after one season and he signed in Chicago, where he played for 13 seasons, winning a Super Bowl ring and being named first-team All-Pro in 1985 and 1987. He played his final season with the Packers in 1994. He had a post-football career as a professional wrestler and commentator.