Former Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs died Thursday after being in a coma since 2007. He was 54.
Mr. Springs had suffered from diabetes for 16 years and was on the national transplant waiting list since 2004. The disease led to the amputation of his right foot and the big and middle toes on his left foot, and caused his hands to curl into knots. He also was forced into a wheelchair and needed dialysis three times a week.
His situation was essentially a death sentence until former Cowboys teammate Everson Walls, who was one of Mr. Springs' best friends, volunteered to donate his kidney. They underwent a successful transplant surgery in February 2007.
His impact on organ donation, diabetes and kidney disease, especially in the African-American community, was immense, Walls said.
"He touched a lot of people," said Walls. "His impact was universal. He made a difference. It was like he was sacrificed for that.
"I have had people call and text me and say they donated organs because of what we went through. It's amazing to be able to leave that kind of legacy. What a mark he made on society as a whole. Forget sports. This is a real life situation and he was the face of that.
"He is the face of the sacrifice and the strength of people who deal with kidney disease and diabetes."
Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: "Ron's life will always be remembered by the joy and laughter that he brought to others and the courage and toughness he displayed until the end. Regardless of the circumstances, he always had a smile for everyone. The Dallas Cowboys have lost a wonderful member of our family, and we share our thoughts and prayers with his family."
Mr. Springs played six years with the Cowboys after being drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State in 1979. He served primarily as the lead blocker for Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
Mr. Springs is survived by his wife Adriane, his son Shawn, daughter Ayra Springs Foster, and daughter Ashley.
Services are pending.