The Hawk's Nest: Ron Springs

While perusing the fanpost section recently, I noticed something was missing. As much as I tried, I couldn't put my finger on it. After scratching my melon for a few minutes, I realized what was odd.....There was no DawnMacelli. We still get to enjoy her talents and unique perspective on the front page, but our semi-regular history lesson on the players that forged "America's Team" was sadly gone. No more Kitti's Korner.

I found that depressing. After poundin' back a few sleeves of Double-stuffed Oreos and a 2 liter bottle of Diet Root Beer ( don't judge me ) I decided to do something about it. I crawled to Dawn on my hands and knees and begged her to throw me a bone. I begged her to let me continue her work and bring to the masses the stories of the players we all loved. And maybe a few we have forgotten. She patted my head gently---out of pity, I'm sure---and nodded. "Sure, Old Yeller," Dawn purred. "Knock yourself out." I scurried out the door, piddled on her neighbor's paper and rode my tricycle home to start my first entry of The Hawk's Nest.

So, with all the gratitude I can muster to Mrs. Macelli, I will follow in her massive footsteps and do what I can to bring the past to life. Sweet Georgia Brown, don't let me screw it up.....

Those of us of the proper age loved watching Tony Dorsett play. What wasn't to love? The speed. The moves. Those huge saucer eyes gleaming from under the shadow of his helmet. With the ball in his hands, Dorsett was one of the most exciting players at any position who ever graced the gridiron. When he had the pill, your pooper puckered in anticipation of what might happen. That's what Tony brought to the table.....Possibilities. The possibility that at any given moment magic would happen. There haven't been too many of those types of players. We were blessed to get the opportunity to watch one every week.

And it was because of Dorsett's greatness that I didn't really like Ron Springs. Think about it. Every carry Springs tallied, was another one taken away from Dorsett. I just couldn't understand the logic. Having your most explosive weapon on the sidelines while a dumpy little nobody took from him the chance to ignite the afterburners? It was utter madness! And I was an utter moron!

I didn't want to hear about strategy.....and skill sets.....and schemes. I just wanted to see Tony Dorsett make everyone else on the field look like they were moving in slow motion. Period. And because of that naive overview of the game, I held a deep resentment towards Ron Springs. For thirty years the resentment burned. Then on May 12, 2011, I got a swift kick to the man-marbles and realized what a total jackass I had been. Ron Springs had died. And after reading his story, a little part of me died as well.

Ronald Edward Springs was born November 4th, 1956 in Williamsburg, Virginia. He went to Lafayette High School where he shared the field with such NFL notables as Lawrence Taylor and Mel Gray. By all accounts, Springs was gifted back. He led the district in rushing his senior year, buoyed by the 315 yards he garnered in one game. From there, Ron plied his trade at Coffeyville Community College where his 2,047 career rushing yards is still a school record. Ohio State University was the next step for young Mr. Springs. Three years and 2,140 yards later, Ron graduated and became eligible for the NFL draft.

He came to the Cowboys in the fifth round of the 1979 draft and was quickly plugged in as Tony Dorsett's backup. Made a name for himself in that role and on special teams, as most rookies do. Ever the competitor, Springs wanted more field-time. Knowing he could never supplant TD, Ron packed on ten pounds and set his sights on the starting fullback spot his sophomore year with Dallas. His persistence paid off and the former Buckeye took the position from Robert Newhouse. He never looked back.

Springs was asked to do a lot in Landry's multiple set offense. And he excelled. Running. Catching. Blocking. Could even toss the ball from the option. Even though his tenure with Dallas lasted only five seasons, Ron left an indelible mark with his teammates. He was regarded as a leader of the squad and his release during training camp in 1985 drew the ire of many on the team. Timmy Newsome proved to be an adequate replacement and the organization decided to make a change.

Springs was grabbed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shortly afterward and played out his final two years as a professional backing up James Wilder. Many felt Springs never really got the opportunity to showcase his talents.....In Dallas or in Tampa. Let's face it, Dorsett and Wilder were not going anywhere. A different team under different circumstances may have given Ron the chance to write himself a better legacy. We will never know. His career numbers, as they stand, were nothing to be overlooked: 2,519 yards rushing. 2,259 yards on 249 receptions. 38 total touchdowns. Add the unwavering respect from everyone he ever played with and he had the type of career most would be proud of.

Unfortunately for Springs, retirement wasn't what he had expected. In 1990, Ron was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Complications from the disease required the amputation of his right foot and two toes on his left, forcing the one-time professional athlete to rely on the services of a wheelchair. He never complained.

By 2004, diabetes had taken it's toll on Ron's kidneys. He was placed on the national transplant list and suffered through dialysis three times a week to keep him alive while waiting for a donor. Shawn Springs, his son and a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, volunteered to give up one of his, but his father refused. The move would have ended Shawn's career and Ron would have no part of that. He was a shell of his former self. Bound to a wheelchair. The disease had ravaged his body to the point where his hands were curled into twisted knots and he needed artificial means to stay among the living. But watching his boy play ball was more important to him. He would wait for another donor.

Help eventually came from his best friend---Everson Walls. They had formed a special bond when teammates between 1981 and 1984. The transplant list wasn't panning out and Everson could no longer sit back and watch his buddy waste away. Springs accepted Walls' offer and the operation was performed in March, 2006.

By all accounts, Ron's body responded very well to the transplant. So much so, that the following year, he was deemed well enough to undergo minor surgery on his elbow to remove a cyst. During that surgery on October 16, 2007, Springs suffered a cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma. He remained in that state for more than three years, until he passed away. Ron Springs was 54.

He left a wife, Adriane.....a son, Shawn.....and two daughters, Ayra and Ashley. Not to mention the hundreds of people whose lives were enriched by knowing him. Ron was blessed with a fighting spirit and a contagious smile. And was never seen without either. Even during the worst of times.

Amidst the turmoil of his post-football life and facing his own mortality, Ron Springs, along with Everson Walls, formed the Gift For Life Foundation, whose goal is to educate people about ways to prevent chronic kidney disease and dispel myths about the living donor process. The organization has done excellent work since Ron's passing. Everson has continued to carry the banner for his friend. And along with Spring's widow, Adriane, they will see that Ron's desire to enrich lives and help those in need will not have died with him.

Ron Spring's story has a special meaning for me. Kidney disease has been a bane to my family. My father succumbed after suffering through several years of dialysis. His age and general health prevented him from getting placed on the transplant list. We accepted his situation and watched helplessly as he withered away. Kidney disease took my baby sister when she was two. I remember just enough of her to wish I had known her longer. Complete angel. And I was forced to have a kidney removed myself, when I was ten. Forged my parents' names on the consent forms so I could play high school football.

So, yeah. I feel guilty as hell for hating Ron Springs all those years. He was a good Dallas Cowboy. But an even greater man. He is no longer with us, and he should never be forgotten.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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