Ex-Cowboy Ron Springs dies at age 54
By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Former Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs may have accomplished more off the field than he did during an eight-year career in the NFL.
Springs, 54, who died Thursday after being in a coma since 2007, will certainly leave a lasting legacy.
His impact on organ donation, diabetes and kidney disease, especially in the African-American community, was immense, former Cowboys teammate Everson Walls said.
“He touched a lot of people,” said Walls, who donated one of his kidneys to his former teammate in 2007. “His impact was universal. He made a difference. It was like he was sacrificed for that.
“I have had people call and text me and say they donated organs because of what we went through. It’s amazing to be able to leave that kind of legacy. What a mark he made on society as a whole. Forget sports. This is a real life situation and he was the face of that.
“He is the face of the sacrifice and the strength of people who deal with kidney disease and diabetes.”
Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: “Ron’s life will always be remembered by the joy and laughter that he brought to others and the courage and toughness he displayed until the end. Regardless of the circumstances, he always had a smile for everyone. The Dallas Cowboys have lost a wonderful member of our family, and we share our thoughts and prayers with his family.”
Springs had suffered from diabetes for 16 years and was on the national transplant waiting list since 2004. The disease led to the amputation of his right foot and the big and middle toes on his left foot, and caused his hands to curl into knots. He also was forced into a wheelchair and needed dialysis three times a week.
His situation was essentially a death sentence until Walls, who was one of Springs’ best friends, volunteered to donate his kidney. They underwent a successful transplant surgery in February 2007.
It was the first time a professional athlete donated an organ to a teammate.
The only other documented cases involving former pro athletes as donors include Greg Ostertag giving a kidney to his sister in 2002 when he was playing for the Utah Jazz, and basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson donating a kidney to his daughter in 1997. Basketball players Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliott are among pro athletes who have received an organ.
What Walls did for Springs became national news. The two became celebrities all over again. A documentary was produced on Walls’ life, featuring the decision to donate his kidney.
Walls and Springs, who were teammates from 1981-84, also were honored in a ceremony before the Cowboys’ 2007 season opener against the Giants.
Things appeared to be going well until Springs went to the hospital to have a cyst removed from his forearm in October. During surgery, Springs experienced a lack of oxygen and fell into a coma. He never recovered.
In January 2008, Springs’ wife, Adriane, filed a medical malpractice suit in state district court claiming gross negligence by the anesthesiologist and plastic surgeon at Medical City Dallas Hospital.
The case is pending.
“We were fighting an uphill battle from the beginning and the court case just adds more frustration to things,” Walls said. “He was doing well. My feelings are all over the place right now. There is surprise, anger, sadness and resignation. To go through all of that and have (complications with a simple surgery) is tough.”
Making the outcome even tougher for the family is they didn’t see it coming. Springs had been doing fine physically with no major complications outside of the coma.
According to Walls, Springs just stopped breathing on Thursday.
Springs’ youngest daughter, Ashley, is graduating from the University of North Texas on Saturday and family members had come into town for the occasion.
Springs is survived by his wife Adriane, his son Shawn, daughter Ayra Springs Foster, and daughter Ashley.
Services are pending.
Springs played six years with the Cowboys after being drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State in 1979. He served primarily as the lead blocker for Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
He finished his career with two seasons in Tampa Bay.