t the age of 32, I had it all. After breaking all the passing records at Maryland, I had played nine successful years in the NFL, quarterbacking a team in the Super Bowl, being selected for three Pro Bowls and being named the league’s Most Valuable Player. I had a beautiful wife, Cheryl; a baby girl, Sydney; and a sweet 2-year-old son, Gunnar. But he was not healthy. He had trouble breathing and was always congested and sick. He just wasn’t as vibrant as a toddler should be. After two years of not knowing what was wrong with him, we received the diagnosis: cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease with no cure. For the first time, I truly felt vulnerable, no longer immune to the tragedies of the outside world. Here I suddenly stood on the front lines in a battle with a disease that would alter my family from this day forward. My first reaction was to stop playing football, to collect myself and figure
a nonprofit organization with the aim of promoting awareness of the disease and providing a support network for the cystic fibrosis community. I quickly became the main spokesperson and lead advocate for this community, with the goal of providing the proper care and medical attention to every CF patient. I felt revitalized by the prospect of helping my son and traveled across the country speaking at CF awareness events and pharmaceutical product roll-outs, and met with legislators to enact or change policies regarding CF health-care funding. I made commitments to help those in need and promised to carry the torch for the families afflicted with the disease. Twenty years later, our foundation has raised over $100 million, and the average life expectancy for a CF patient is 37 years. I can’t describe the passion I have for helping these families or measure the gratification I’ve received watching my son grow up and overcome every obstacle associated with this disease.
HERE I SUDDENLY STOOD ON THE FRONT LINES IN A BATTLE WITH A DISEASE THAT WOULD ALTER MY FAMILY FROM THIS DAY FORWARD.
LIVING FEARLESSLY MEANS EXPANDING THE ENVELOPE OF HUMAN PERFORMANCE. FELIX BAUMGARTNER
SOUND BARRIER IN FREE FALL WEARING A SUIT DEVELOPED BY OUR TEAM OF ENGINEERS AND DESIGNERS. AS WE SEEK NEW AND PREVIOUSLY
UNIMAGINED HEIGHTS FOR NASA AND THE U.S. AIR FORCE AND COMMERCIAL VENTURES SUCH AS RED BULL STRATOS, WE CONTINUE TO
PUSH OUR OWN LIMITS TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE.
out the best way to approach Gunnar’s condition. In 1993, the average life expectancy for a person with CF was 17 years; I needed to change that. I consulted my family and closest friends and decided to continue playing football. I needed to use the media and my status as a professional athlete to shape an attack on cystic fibrosis. Off the field, I studied the disease and helped Gunnar with his new regimen of nebulizer treatments, physical therapy two or three times a day, and pancreatic enzymes taken before every meal. Within weeks of Gunnar’s diagnosis I started the Boomer Esiason Foundation,
Gunnar played backup quarterback on his high school football team, turned 22 on April 6 and graduated from Boston College in May. My work on behalf of CF and the foundation has been challenging, but I wouldn’t call it fearless. That label belongs to Gunnar.
SHANE JACOBS M.S. ’06, PH.D. ’09 SOFTGOODS DESIGN MANAGER/ DAVID CLARK CO.
BOOMER ESIASON is a studio analyst
on “The NFL Today” on CBS, broadcast color analyst on “Monday Night Football” on the Dial Global radio network and co-host of “Boomer & Carton” on New York’s WFAN Radio and MSG television networks.
PHOTOS BY CRAIG BLANKENHORN/CBS (LEFT); JAY NEMETH/RED BULL CONTENT POOL (RIGHT)
SPRING 2013 TERP 29