Paging Dr. Gado: Serious mission awaits RB

After witnessing the horrors of AIDS in his native Nigeria, Packers running back Samkon Gado plans a heroic post-football career.

Football is important to Samkon Gado. The chance to win the starting job, fulfilling his tremendous promise — it's all important to Gado.

But not nearly as important as battling the AIDS epidemic that is sweeping through his native Africa.

"I've seen (it) first-hand, and I think it would be very egregious for me to overlook that," Gado said on Friday.

Gado left his homeland of Nigeria when he was 9 years old. Three years ago, while still a student-athlete at Liberty University, Gado returned to Nigeria for the first time. What he saw left an impression that would impact the most hardened and callous individual.

During his trip, he met a presumably AIDS-stricken cousin who had just given birth. Gado did all he could — prayed and gave her the meager medicine he had brought with him — but she died shortly after his return to the United States. The baby has the bleakest of futures to look forward to. The baby almost certainly was born with AIDS, and the father, who had been kidnapped and held for ransom, likely died in captivity.

"Stories like that, that's just normal. That's not even special," Gado told the Associated Press in a Friday night interview.

Not special to those who live there, but special enough for Gado to plan his post-football life. He plans to become a doctor and then return to Nigeria to do his part to tackle the epidemic.

"I think that the problem that is going on in Africa is really being overlooked, and I think it's kind of sad," Gado said. "America has the right to do whatever it chooses. It doesn't have to do things because other people tell them to do it. But I think when you just look at the need, I feel like it's too hard to ignore."

While Gado's short-term future remains in football, he spends three days a week working at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, mostly taking bloods samples and helping patients go to the bathroom.

Gado's no novice. He was a pre-med major and carried a 3.66 grade-point average at Liberty, a college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

"Just the way (the body) functions and it works, it's so amazing," Gado said. "Even now, we don't completely understand everything there is to know about the body, just the complexity. So I just look at that and that tells me there has to be a God."

While Gado's mission is deadly serious, he's had some only-in-Green Bay moments while working at Bellin.

Though Gado, not surprisingly considering his out-of-nowhere rise to stardom last season, usually was able to conceal his identity, that wasn't always the case.

Gado recalled one incident when a man, just coming out of surgery and waking from his drug-induced nap, told his wife that he had been assisted by Gado.

"She says, ‘My husband swears that you're Samkon Gado, and I'm telling him that you're not, that you wouldn't be working here if you were.' And he'd just gotten out of surgery, so this guy was doped up," Gado said.

After Gado told the woman that her groggy husband was correct, she asked, "What are you doing here?"

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