From left, Chanda Brigance makes a comment that makes her husband, O.J. Brigance laugh before the inaugural Zumbathon for ALS at The Merritt Athletic Club's gym on Friday, June 27, 2014.
From left, Chanda Brigance makes a comment that makes her husband, O.J. Brigance laugh before the inaugural Zumbathon for ALS at The Merritt Athletic Club's gym on Friday, June 27, 2014. (Rachel Woolf / Baltimore Sun)

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was tired, and for good reason.

The Pro Bowl selection had spent the past several minutes dancing Friday night during the second annual two-hour Zumbathon for ALS at the Merritt Athletic Club in downtown Baltimore. The event benefits Ravens senior advisor to player development O.J. Brigance's foundation to support families and people dealing with amyotrophic lateral sclerocis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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"I wanted to pass out," Tucker said with a laugh. "Seriously, it's a lot of fun and everyone has a lot of energy. It's a fun event. I'm just really glad O.J. thought of me to come back out again.

"What's awesome about this event and what O.J. is doing with his foundation is it speaks to the kind of guy he is, always giving back. You want to talk about a guy who's had a tough road. Talk about a guy who's gotten some lemons, but he's made lemonade. He's sharing that with everybody, and that's the coolest part."

Two seasons ago when Tucker missed a pair of field-goal attempts against the Cleveland Browns, Brigance sent him a lengthy email encouraging him to stay the course.

"One thing about O.J. is he doesn't complain and he's such a great resource being around him at the facility," Tucker said. "Going into his office and having a conversation with him, it really helps me put things into perspective, not just on the football field, but off the football field.

"One of the coolest things I'll always think about O.J. is when I missed two kicks and O.J. was one of the first people to reach out. He sent me a nice, encouraging, long email. The message was awesome about putting things in perspective. That's something he's really good at."

Brigance was joined at the two-hour event by his wife, Chanda, who took part in the dancing along with several attendees.

"It was amazing," she said. "This is our second year doing this. Hopefully, we can make it for many years to come and raise funds for those living with ALS.

"This is something fun to do. It's working out. It's something healthy. For everyone to be able to come out and participate is just amazing. Tons of energy, that's what you need for Zumba."

Diagnosed with ALS in 2007, the retired former Ravens linebacker is upbeat about the money and awareness the Brigance Brigade foundation is raising for ALS research. ALS is a degenerative motor neuron disease. There is no known cure.

"Everything is progressing wonderfully with the foundation and our fight against ALS!" Brigance said. "We had a great turnout for our 5.7 Championship Run and now through our new partnership with Merritt Athletic Club, we will be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from our second Zumbathon for ALS.

"We can't thank the city of Baltimore and state of Maryland enough for their continued support. We couldn't do this without you! Zumba is a fun, unique way to get a great workout in. With the great music and lively instructors, you can't help but want to join in and dance! What a great way to get an inspired workout!"

In his role working for the Ravens, Brigance mentors players. That includes the Ravens' rookie draft class.

"I have been pleased with the progress of the draft picks thus far," Brigance said. "Most of their time is spent getting acclimated to a new system and environment. As they become more comfortable with the Ravens way, the coaches and scouts will really be able to evaluate their capabilities."

Brigance works in conjunction with Ravens director of player development Harry Swayne.

"Right now, Harry is taking the rookies through our orientation program," Brigance said. "It provides an excellent opportunity to get to know the men and their goals while in the NFL.

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"The curriculum revolves around teaching the men life and financial skills of how to be a professional in the NFL. We want them to be good football players, but the ultimate goal is to make them better men."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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