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CLICK ON THIS FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE FUNDRAISER FOR WARNER SMITH THE EVENT IS NEXT FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AT STARR PASS.
During a recent visit to Tucson, I came across Warner Smith at a sports bar and restaurant, sitting alone, a brace on his left leg, watching a few college football bowl games on the many screens on the wall.
“Looks like the Pac-12 is doing well,” Smith said after shaking my hand.
All I could think of was hoping Warner was doing well. He perhaps was waiting for company or maybe he wanted to get away for a bit and take his mind off of everything. I didn’t feel compelled to ask. I just wanted to know he was doing fine. He carried on his familiar exuberance that he has shown since before his days as an all-Pac-10 offensive lineman at Arizona in the early 1990’s.
The same way he took care of some of the conference’s top defensive linemen, knocking them off their feet, Smith is attempting to withstand and overcome his bout with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Warner, 42, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, three years ago. He gains strength from his wife Becky and young daughter Carlee, a spunky beautiful girl who is in kindergarten. Becky said in a video produced by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, “I don’t want Carlee to be raised without her father. It was very scary, very sickening to see him already going downhill and think that he’s actually going to get worse that what he already was. Now, we just take it day by day.”
Friends and former teammates have rallied around the Smith family since learning the news of his disease. I first found about it from a Facebook post by former Arizona running back David Adams, who expressed sincere grief for Warner. David and Warner were never teammates at Arizona; Adams ended his career with the Wildcats five years before Smith started.
The Wildcat family has no boundaries especially with situations like this.
That bond is a much-needed boost for Warner and his family. Former teammate David Watson organized an Ice Bucket Challenge late in 2014 to raise funds for Warner. Friends and family will continue their crusade for Warner and his family with a fundraiser to be held at Starr Pass next Friday and Saturday.
The event includes a golf tournament. On Friday night, a dinner will be held that will include a roast of Warner likely be ex-teammates from Arizona’s famed Desert Swarm era. An auction and raffle will also take place that evening.
During the day on Saturday, family fun activities such as a dunk tank, slip and slide, lazy river races and rubber duck races will take place. The organizers are describing the weekend as an opportunity to “Give Warner a Fighting Chance” against ALS.
Warner, a San Manuel native, is one of the true good guys to come through Arizona’s football program. That’s why so many in Southern Arizona are touched by his fight with ALS. A father myself of a vivacious daughter, who keeps me going through tough times but nothing close to what Warner is enduring, I feel for what he must be going through.
Warner is not the type who seeks sympathy. In order for him to stay strong, he requires strength from those who support him. Hopefully that happens at Starr Pass in June and always, so he can continue to share his precious time with his wife and daughter.
“The urgency is definitely there,” Smith said in the MDA video. “Give me a fighting chance, is what I want.”
Please visit www.alsa.org to learn more and to donate. Thank you.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.