A large contingent of runners participated in retired Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance's annual championship run Saturday in Canton.
Ravens Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and defensive end Michael McCrary attended the event.
The 5.7-kilometer run and one-mile family run-walk, organized through the Brigance Brigade, benefits research for and support of families dealing with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The event drew over 1,400 runners and raised over $175,000.
The Ravens' senior advisor to player development, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS in 2007. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens after the 2000 season and also won a Grey Cup championship with the Baltimore Stallions.
"The growth of the awareness about ALS over the past few years has been the most impressive to me, from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to movies like 'A Beautiful Mind,' and TV series like Empire," Brigance told The Baltimore Sun. "There has been an unprecedented amount of awareness raised for ALS. I am so proud of where we have come from, but disappointed there haven't been more advancements in the research front to find a cure. While I realize there are dedicated researchers working feverishly to find a cure, it makes improving the quality of life even more important until a cure is discovered.
"That is why our fund-raising efforts here today are so critical. We set a goal to grow the race from last year's numbers, and we have definitely exceeded it. I can't thank everyone enough for coming out to support the fight against ALS. We are blessed by everybody who came out today and by those who donated online. This is a wonderful turnout."
Brigance continues to remain positive despite the fact that there is no known cure for ALS.
"What keeps me going every day, despite my diagnosis, is the mere fact that God has allowed me to live and wake up to experience another day," Brigance said. "He has work for me to do. Whether it's working with the Brigance Brigade or encouraging the mighty men of the Baltimore Ravens, destiny and purpose propel me forward. I am doing great, thanks to the tremendous care of my caregiving team. I am extremely grateful to them and blessed."
When Brigance played for the Ravens, he wore No. 57.
Since his retirement after seven NFL seasons, former Ravens starting linebacker Bart Scott and Mosley have worn his number.
"To see men like Bart Scott and C.J. wear the No. 57 makes me extremely proud," Brigance said. "Bart came in as a free agent and fought his way to becoming a starter. He realized that much can be accomplished through hard work and perseverance. C.J., although he is a first-rounder, is a humble, hard-working guy who doesn't take his opportunity for granted. He is a great example of what it means to be a humble leader."
This offseason, the Ravens have traded five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions, re-signed defensive end Chris Canty and running back Justin Forsett, signed safety Kendrick Lewis and signed cornerback Jimmy Smith to a four-year, $48 million extension.
"The roster moves we have made so far have been good," Brigance said. "Signing a young talented corner like Jimmy is crucial to solidifying our secondary. Adding Kendrick Lewis on the back end with Lardarius Webb, Matt Elam and Will Hill should give us a boost. Bringing Chris Canty and Justin Forsett back gives us great leadership both on and off the field. Our scouting department is the best in the business. We will be ready to go this season."
The Ravens have 10 picks in the NFL draft next week. General manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to try to bolster the cornerback, wide receiver, outside linebacker, tight end and running back positions through the draft.
"There are plenty of talented players in this year's draft," Brigance said. "As to who we will draft, that question is above my paygrade. But I am confident that Ozzie and his staff will use our picks to get more talented players in the building."