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Ravens' O.J. Brigance offers faithful lift to Calvert Hall students

FootballBaltimore RavensO.J. BriganceSuper BowlNFLDetroit Lions

It was a far different inspirational speech than the one O.J. Briganceand his Ravens teammates heard before their triumph in Super Bowl XXXV, but the NFL champion had an uplifting message to deliver at the year's final meeting of Calvert Hall's Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"Being a champion had nothing to do with academic or athletic endeavors, but how I glorified God with the gifts and attributes he has given me," Brigance told the crowd of 50 students who filled a classroom before school Thursday.

The manner in which those words were delivered was moving as well, though not in a traditional sense:He spoke them through a computer.

In 2007, the former linebacker was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. He now uses a wheelchair and can only communicate through a computer screen that hangs in front of him, which he operates with his eyes.

Brigance, who played in seven NFL seasons and is currently a senior adviser to player development for the Ravens, said he committed himself to Jesus while at Rice University, and grew in his faith while playing for the B.C. Lions in the Canadian Football League. He also won a Grey Cup in 1995 with the Baltimore Stallions.

He told the students about the eight attributes involved in being a champion of Christ, which include perseverance, commitment to Jesus, energy to glorify God, and morals.

"These attributes will guarantee we are champions of Jesus Christ," Brigance said.

After his remarks, which he had prepared in advance, the floor was opened to questions. A disclaimer was given that it could take a while for his response, but when no one raised a hand, Brigance went to work on his computer and insisted, with a smile, that someone in the crowd must have a question.

A student finally asked what it was like to make the tackle on the opening kickoff of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory, and Brigance answered with a grin.

"I was so excited I needed medication to calm down," he said.

The students he spoke to, all athletes themselves, left the event having seemingly taken Brigances' message to heart.

Jordan Germershausen, a junior on the Calvert Hall lacrosse team, said that when he takes the field for a conferencechampionship game against Loyola Blakefield Friday night, he'll do so with the knowledge that he's playing for a higher glory.

"I thought it was pretty inspirational," Stephen Kelly, a fellow junior on the lacrosse team," said. "It just shows how blessed we are with our health, and how he's taken a bad situation and made it the best possible. It's inspiring to other people with ALS, and all people in general."

Kelly said he was particularly moved by Brigance's closing remarks, which were especially poignant to the students after they saw what it took for him to address them.

"I just want to let you all know that there is no dream that is impossible," Brigance said. "Many thought I would never be able to give speeches, but here I am."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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