View Full Version : Stokley's football journey due to his father

06-26-2010, 10:56 AM
The Gazette
ENGLEWOOD • Brandon Stokley got to spend some time back home before his father’s death earlier this month, even though Alzheimer’s disease had already robbed Nelson Stokley.

The two men didn’t throw the football around, like they would when Brandon Stokley was young, or go golfing, which was typical when Brandon was an adult making his living in the NFL. But Brandon, a receiver for the Broncos, got to say goodbye before Nelson Stokley lost a three-year battle with Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease and common form of dementia, on June 5.

“He wasn’t coherent at that time, but it was just good to be in the room with him,” Stokley said.

Because of the experience with his father, Stokley has partnered up with Alzheimer’s Association. Stokley hosted a golf tournament for the charity at Lakewood Country Club on Monday.

“It’s a tough situation to watch a person go through Alzheimer’s,” Stokley said. “When you see it firsthand and see someone deteriorate like that — to me, there’s nothing worse.”

This has been a difficult offseason for Stokley. Between deaths in the family — there were a couple on Brandon’s wife Lana’s side of the family this spring too — and an injury, Stokley missed most of the Broncos’ offseason camps. Stokley said he is healthy and will be prepared for training camp, ready to fight for a roster spot for a 12th NFL season, but he still has the emotional pain of the past few months.

“It’s been the toughest offseason I’ve ever been through,” Stokley said.

Stokley chuckled a bit when asked whether he would be in the NFL without his father’s influence, because the answer is obvious: no way. Not for the reasons one might expect from a coach’s son. Nelson Stokleycoached at Louisiana-Lafayette for 13 seasons, but Stokley made the NFL because his father didn’t push him to play football.

Stokley quit football after his freshman year in high school. He was very small, and playing quarterback even though he couldn’t throw well. He wanted to play baseball and basketball, but didn’t want to tell that to his father.

“I remember being real nervous to tell him, ‘Dad, I don’t want to play football anymore,’” Stokley said. “I told him, and he was so supportive. He stood behind me and said whatever I wanted to do, he would support me.”

Through high school there was no pressure to rejoin football, and when Stokley decided he wanted to play his senior year, his dad offered unconditional support. Nelson told him if he tried football again and still didn’t like it, at least he would know.

“If he would have been that pushy father, I think I would have pushed away from football and not gone back to it,” Stokley said.

That decision affected Brandon Stokley’s life in countless ways. Of course, he has made a great living as a NFL player. He also got to spend five special years with Nelson Stokley, his college coach.

“It’s been a great relationship for me and, hopefully, for him,” Nelson Stokleytold the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1997. “Being a coach, you don’t get to see each other as much as you’d like while he’s growing up.”

“That was the best five years of my life, being able to play for him,” BrandonStokley said.

Even as Stokley was becoming a star in the NFL, his father didn’t meddle.

“Whether I did good or bad, he wouldn’t critique me or point out things to me,” Stokley said. “He was just a normal dad, even though he was a football coach.”

Nelson Stokleyhad early-onset Alzheimer’s, and BrandonStokley said he lived a regular life for a while with the disease. They golfed together last offseason (“He was still a pretty good golfer,” Brandon said) and Brandon spent some time with his father in January after Denver’s season ended. His condition worsened and by the end of January he was in a nursing home.

Stokley said he is ready for training camp. Life hasn’t been easy since last season but he said he wants to get back to football.

“It has given me more motivation to enjoy what I have right now and appreciate opportunities I have and take one day at a time,” Stokley said. “Don’t look too far forward, because you don’t really know. That’s what I’ve gotten out of this offseason: you never know. Just enjoy life and enjoy your family and be thankful for everything you have.”

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/sports/strong-100749-margin-5px.html#ixzz0rylV7TgY

The Joker
06-26-2010, 11:36 AM
One of the easiest guys to like in the NFL.

Must be tough for Brandon right now, no doubt he'll be bringing it 100% come TC though.

Good luck Stokes.