When the news came to the surface Thursday about LSU coach Steve Kragthorpe's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease, he took a few minutes to address the media with his boss, Tigers coach Les Miles.
The time was brief and Kragthorpe appeared to get emotional as he walked away. So there wasn't a chance for the media assembled to dig into his feelings.
No chance to ask him if he wondered why him.
Truth is, I don't think Kragthorpe would think that way.
Kragthorpe defined this latest dust with personal disaster as a "little bit of a blow personally." He insisted that his faith would help him understand it and help him get through it.
However he chooses to approach this battle is courageous. Parkinson's is a disease that attacks the motor skills, one that the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (www.ninds.nih.gov) defines as chronic (persistent over time) and progressive (symptoms grow worse over time).
I'd admittedly biased because without ever having met Kragthorpe before January, we had a natural connection.
We both spent a good chunk of our formative years in a part of the world that is pretty hard to get to, but awfully friendly and enjoyable once you do arrive.
Kragthorpe played football at West Texas State in little Canyon, Texas. I launched my career and met my much, much better half just a few miles down the road in Lubbock and spent plenty of time in Plainview, Canyon and Amarillo – all towns mentioned in a great Steve Earle song about that short stretch of highway, I-27, named ‘Amarillo Highway.'
My wife, Jenny, like Kragthorpe's wife, Cynthia, is a good West Texas girl. So there's a bond with Kragthorpe and I. We can both talk about little towns there in the Texas Panhandle with funny names that nobody else would have a clue about (New Deal, Idalou, Muleshoe, Hereford, Dimmitt, Springlake, Earth).
He knows that at The Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo, yeah you have to eat the 72-ounce steak in an hour to get a free dinner. But you also have to eat a potato and salad to complete the transaction.
Kragthorpe has seen it rain mud and he undoubtedly got used to seeing jumbo-sized tumbleweeds rolling by like we feel humidity here.
Although we've only met a few times and have spent time on the phone, there's a chemistry between us.
That's why it made it awfully tough to hear Miles say "Kragthorpe" and "Parkinson's disease" in the same sentence Thursday. As a guy from roughly from the same age demographic, it tugs at the heartstrings anyway, but especially since it's hard to not like Kragthorpe.
Apparently I'm not alone.
LSU media relations director Michael Bonnette tweeted Friday morning that the outpouring of support for Kragthorpe has been overwhelming.
Because whether you like his offense or think he is the magician with Jordan Jefferson he's being pegged as, the bottom line with Kragthorpe is simple.
He's a good man and a good guy. He's somebody sportswriters put in our highest regard – somebody you could sit down with and have a cold drink of his choice with.
Put aside the promise that Kragthorpe arrived with. Don't think about the rave reviews he's gotten from Jefferson.
Instead of thinking of all that or anything football-related, remember this about Kragthorpe. Before he's a football coach, he's a father and husband. More than that, he's a husband who has been through a lot as his wife has battled multiple sclerosis and a heart ailment.
I wish him well because it's the human thing to do. And whether he ever coaches a down at LSU, Kragthorpe is a man who has represented the school and the program very well in eight short months.
COLUMN: Recognizing a good man
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