Summer 2024

Unpackin' It: Tim Shaw shares faith journey in battle with ALS

Denver Broncos v Tennessee TitansTim Shaw joins us on UNPACKIN’ it to talk faith, football and business. Shaw, former NFL linebacker and key special teams player for seven seasons, candidly shares his inspiring faith journey as he bravely battles ALS. Click HERE to listen to the entire interview.

BRYCE JOHNSON: In August [2014] you made it public during an ice bucket challenge that you have ALS. How is everything going today?
TIM SHAW: What an amazing, wild ride it has been this year…to hear that you have a life-threatening disease with no known cure. To say it’s a life-altering event would be an understatement, but I am doing great. I’m full of hope and full of energy and enthusiasm and just joy…joy of life. My body is doing well, I’m moving well, and I’m still really functioning at a high level. That’s so encouraging to me.

BRYCE JOHNSON: I was reading an account you wrote for Sports Illustrated. You found out in April [2014] and it took some time to set in. When did it finally become real for you that you have ALS?
TIM SHAW: I certainly denied it for a while. I couldn’t believe it because I was looking at myself and saying, ‘I’m a pro athlete…the things that I have done and the things that my body can do are unbelievable, so how could I possibly have this?’ You try to pretend that it’s going to go away, but there were some undeniable things that were happening with my body. It was that time period of four to five months when I needed to process and understand what ALS is going to mean for me and how it’s going to change my life.

BRYCE JOHNSON: What went into deciding now it’s time…I want people to know that Tim Shaw, former NFL player, is dealing with this?
TIM SHAW: There were a number of factors. One of the biggest was that false rumors were going around, so I wanted to clear them up. Walking around with a secret that most people don’t know is a difficult thing to do and it was really wearing on me. I just had to get it off my chest and share that burden with the world. Also, seeing the enormous opportunity right in front of my face – to have an impact and get the awareness of the message out there.

BRYCE JOHNSON: What has the response been like and how have you handled that?
TIM SHAW: It’s been amazing! People are praying, and sending their love and encouragement. It’s so awesome, but at the same time it’s very sad to be the person that everyone is praying for and the person in need who is struggling. It’s very humbling, but to receive genuine care from people is really…special.

BRYCE JOHNSON: How has your faith been personally challenged?
TIM SHAW: Oh, man, what a challenge to ask God real questions like, ‘Why on earth is this happening to me?’ And, ‘What is going on? How could You let this happen?’ I am honest with God because He can take my anger, my brokenness, and sadness about the loss of possible functions and just the potential future that I might have. He continues to show me that He’s got me right in His hand and that He is going to take care of me. Every day, through someone else, He shows me He’s working through the situation – that the words I speak and the actions I’m living out are impacting people for Christ. He doesn’t say that it will be easy, but He just says that…He’s going to handle it!

BRYCE JOHNSON: How do you balance the fight you’re in with the fight to continue to enjoy life and pursue things you wanted after football?
TIM SHAW: I am living to the fullest like I always have. What is changing is eliminating the things that don’t matter – the petty conversations, the relationships that drag me down, and the actions that are wasting time. I want to make the most of every day. My new purpose is to raise awareness and to help people. I’m trying to make wise decisions about how to spend my time.

BRYCE JOHNSON: I hear such joy and optimism in the way you’re viewing this whole situation, but how have you been able to raise awareness about the seriousness of ALS?
TIM SHAW: I understand that there are a lot of people…who have it a lot worse than someone with ALS, but I want people to understand that when someone is diagnosed with ALS they have no hope…There is no designated path of success, there is no doctor protocol…I want the world to know that, because it’s what drives us to find a cure. This cause has been poured in my lap, so I have to do something about it.

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Spring 2015 print issue. Log in HERE to view the issue. Subscribe HERE to receive eight issues of Sports Spectrum a year.