NFL Hero is FilAm

by Cynthia De Castro/

LOS ANGELES – In America, the championship game of the National Football League (NFL) called the Super Bowl is the most-watched US television broadcast.

This season, the New England Patriots made an astounding record-breaking performance in NFL history, with a flawless record of 17 wins and zero losses that qualified them for the championship game in Super Bowl XLII.

One of the most outstanding Patriots in NFL history is linebacker Tedy Lacap Bruschi (pronounced Brew-ski), the only Filipino American to play in Super Bowl XLII.

Americans usually don’t use their mothers’ maiden names for their middle names. Tedy Bruschi was once asked in an interview if his “unique middle name” had any special meaning. Bruschi answered, “It happens to be my mother’s maiden name. Her name was Juanita Lacap before she married my dad. My sister, my brother and I all have the same middle name. It’s sort of a way of showing respect to your mother’s family. That way the Lacap name can live on.”

Bruschi’s mother is Juanita Lacap, a Filipina who married Anthony Bruschi Sr., an American of Italian descent. Their marriage ended in divorce when Bruschi, the youngest of three children, was only five years old. Lacap later married Ron Sandys, a professional tennis player.

A 12-year veteran of the NFL, Bruschi has played his entire career with the New England Patriots. He is the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns and the only Patriots linebacker to return multiple interceptions for scores in a single season. His career total, four picks returned for scores, ranks second in Patriots history. He is tied for fourth in NFL history among linebackers.

Tedy has been the heart and soul of the Patriots defense for a decade. But more than his achievements in the League, Bruschi’s personal success made him a hero in the eyes of Americans. Tedy’s life story has given inspiration to many. He has exemplified the adage that one can overcome and beat the odds through courage, perseverance and hard work.

In 2005, Bruschi was at his peak – he had just won 3 Super Bowls and was playing his first Pro Bowl. He had a great family life with his wife, Heidi, and their three young sons, Tedy Jr., Rex and Dante.

A few days after the Pro Bowl, Bruschi awoke with a strange numbness in his left arm and leg. He tried to fight the numbness, thinking that he had slept on his side wrong. But soon after, his head began to ache and his vision became blurry. Heidi called 911 and the greatest challenge of Bruschi’s life began.

Bruschi, then 31 and in top physical shape, had suffered a stroke. His affliction was traced to a congenital heart defect. He suffered partial paralysis and endured months of rehabilitation.

Many assumed that his football career would be over, but not Bruschi. He worked through months of intense physical therapy. He started the long road back to normalcy, which initially did not include football. His motivation included being able to play with his boys and taking on a nebulous front-office job with New England.

But as his vision came back and doctors saw his progress, it became OK to think about getting back on the field. After having surgery to repair a hole in his heart, Bruschi vigorously began an improbable comeback.

Last year, Bruschi wrote a book about his experience with his stroke and his recovery, entitled Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery, and My Return to the NFL. In his memoir, Bruschi spoke with candor about how his family confronted the reality of his life-threatening affliction, his initial plans to retire from the NFL, and the moment that he told his wife that he was ready to play football again.

On October 16, 2005, it was announced that Bruschi had been medically cleared to resume playing football. He rejoined the team on the practice field three days later. The Patriots officially activated him on October 29. Bruschi’s first game back was Oct. 30 against Buffalo, and he had 10 tackles in the victory. It was almost as if he had never been away from the game.

“I’ll always remember being on the field and starting next to Tedy that game after he came back from a stroke,” fellow linebacker Mike Vrabel recalled. “I remember the reaction from the fans and the reaction from the players. It was special.”

He is the first NFL player to come back to the field after suffering a stroke, and was named the 2005 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He also won the prestigious Ed Block Courage Award and now serves as one of the Patriots’ team captains.

Today, fully recovered and back at the Super Bowl as one of the unbeaten New England Patriots’ defensive leaders, Tedy has become a spokesman for the American Stroke Association. A symbol of inspiration, especially to stroke survivors.

“People have talked to me about being an inspiration to them and a lot of stroke survivors talk to me. I respect that and I am humbled by it. It is something that I am proud to call myself: a stroke survivor,” he said.  “My doctors tell me that their patients light up every time they tell somebody, ‘This is the same thing Ted Bruschi went through. If he can get back to playing professional football, then you can be a normal, functioning human being also,'” Tedy added.

Bruschi’s inspirational story has made him a hero to Americans. But the fact that he is half-Filipino and proud of it makes him especially more to his fellow Filipinos.


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