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Sam Wyche....what a man


g8trz2003
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here's an article on what this guy has been through.

I'm sure yall know who Wyche is, but he also played football at Furman, and was also a KA (yah, same chapter that I'm a KA in...Iota chapter).

 

Anyway, I didnt realize all the crap he's been through the last couple years. What a man.

 

(btw, Pickens is in Pickens County...which borders Greenville County to the west...it's like 1/2 hr from Furman).

 

Wyche comes to life

 

After years of poor health, he's back in football with Bills

 

By Marla Ridenour

Beacon Journal staff writer

 

 

PICKENS, S.C. - In the sweltering, mid-July sun, Sam Wyche completed another lap of the driveway. Sweat trickled down the scar on his left cheek, past the now-healed 3-inch gash below his Adam's apple and over the bulge in his chest where his second pacemaker is implanted.

 

Wyche, 59, was pumped. The daily 45-minute power walk on his 28-acre farm was always his best brainstorming time, but now one of the best offensive minds in professional football had a purpose.

 

He was days away from his first NFL training camp in nine years. The Buffalo Bills had hired him as quarterbacks coach to revive the struggling career of Drew Bledsoe.

 

In the process, Wyche figured he might revive his own career.

 

With an appointment to keep, he hustled into the white ranch house, stopping to retrieve what looked like a shaving kit from the passenger seat of his black Ford F-150 crew cab.

 

But this was no shaving kit; it was Sam Wyche's lifeline. It held an assortment of 12 prescription drugs and vitamins he must faithfully ingest, some half at a time, on a schedule so confusing that there's a card inside to help keep the dosages straight.

 

In the past five years, Wyche has lost his health, his voice and his job. But now there's no hint of the depression that once gnawed at the vibrant former Cincinnati Bengals coach. He's bouncy and busy, wrapping up loose ends, shipping his motorcycle to New York and saying goodbye to friends in his wife's hometown of Pickens.

 

High times

 

Wyche was once on top of the world, literally. On a September evening in 1999, he was flying his six-seat Beechcraft P-Baron twin-engine plane at 21,000 feet, cruising over the Smoky Mountains at night. He was returning home to Greenville, S.C., after broadcasting a Bears game in Chicago. His wife, Jane, was dozing in the back.

 

He'd had a hard time leaving football when he was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 1995 season, but working for CBS was almost as fulfilling. There were road trips on weekends and plenty of time to chat with coaches and players, but no pressure to win and no long hours. Millions of people watched him analyze the sport he dearly loved.

 

Then, like a warning light flashing on his control panel, Wyche felt something flare in his chest.

 

He tried to ignore it. Except for football injuries, he'd always been in perfect health. There was no need to wake his wife. Wyche calmly landed the plane, then told her: ``I think I'm having a heart attack. I can't move!''

 

Wyche went to the hospital for tests. He had a lung scan, was checked for blood clots. For six months, the pain remained. He was treated for an irregular heartbeat but continued to fly, even making a cross-country trip to Arizona and jaunts to Florida.

 

After that season, the Wyches moved from Greenville to Pickens, and the chest pains intensified. A trip to the Pickens emergency room in early 2000 revealed blood clots.

 

A traumatic flight back from a Florida vacation in February was Wyche's last at the controls.

 

Wyche had the Beechcraft at 3,000 feet and was cleared to land in Greenville when he spied a buzzard 100 feet above. He was afraid to turn the jet for fear the bird would end up in the engine. He thought he'd just go underneath it. But instead the buzzard came at him like a bullet, blowing out the side window, tearing his headset off and cutting Wyche's left cheek. The bird left a hole in the windshield and a crack all the way across.

 

The Wyches were covered in blood and guts. With the jet traveling 220 mph, Wyche was forced to hold the windshield in place with one hand (to ensure it wouldn't decapitate him) and land the plane with the other.

 

By the time the $100,000 damage to the plane was repaired, Wyche was too sick to think about flying again.

 

Within the next month, he spent two weeks in the Greenville hospital for blood clots and an irregular heartbeat. His lymph nodes swelled, and doctors feared cancer. So the Wyches went along with the idea of a biopsy, even though only one of four doctors favored it.

 

The decision cost Wyche his voice.

 

The doctor missed the spot for the incision by two ribs and cut the nerve to his left vocal cord.

 

Wyche once took a sideline microphone and tried to subdue snowball-throwing Cincinnati fans by saying, ``You don't live in Cleveland!'' One of the most quoted and controversial coaches in the NFL woke up and couldn't talk.

 

His doctor assured him it was just normal trauma caused by the tube down his throat and that he'd be fine in a few days.

 

Two months later, Wyche still couldn't speak.

 

``I felt so bad for him,'' Jane said. ``Everything he was trained and worked hard to do, he couldn't do any more.''

 

Wyche's emotions were all over the map.

 

``I was angry. I got depressed. I got totally disenchanted,'' said Wyche, who settled a lawsuit with the doctor. ``I really had it made. I was on a great broadcast team (at CBS) with Kevin Harlan. I'd just taken a job with TNN to do the national Arena Football games on Thursday night. I had speaking engagements. It was all cut out from under me.''

 

As his son, Zak, said: ``It had to be devastating for him, although he didn't show it. I've seen him show more emotion losing a football game than his voice. That's the way he is. He won't let you know.''

 

Search for help

 

Wyche refused to accept defeat. He saw a specialist at Vanderbilt University. But after two surgeries and another treatment, his voice was no better. Even though the biopsy had revealed no cancer, his health was declining.

 

After Thanksgiving that year, Wyche became too weak to carry his own suitcase during a trip. He couldn't walk to the plane unassisted.

 

This time, doctors told him he had cardiomyopathy. A virus that he could have caught shaking hands had attacked his heart and damaged it.

 

The voiceless Wyche was now defenseless, too. He listened to former Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth and came to Cincinnati for a complete workup.

 

More doctors, more tests and an additional diagnosis: Factor 5 leiden, a blood disease that causes clots. He had his first pacemaker installed about two months later around March 2001.

 

When he returned to South Carolina, Wyche was at an all-time low. His heart was beating only 35 times a minute and it was emptying 17 percent of the blood traveling through, compared with 55 percent to 60 percent in a healthy man.

 

Because his body wasn't getting enough oxygenated blood, Wyche spent 23 hours a day in bed.

 

His daughter, Kerry, flew in from South Dakota; Zak drove down from Cincinnati. Jane feared she'd lose her partner of 38 years, her college sweetheart.

 

``It was real bad. I was close,'' Wyche said, remembering what felt like his approaching death. ``When the kids started coming to town I thought, `What do you know (that) I don't know?' ''

 

But a new pacemaker, this one with a defibrillator that can automatically shock Wyche's heart with 800 volts of electricity, brought him back in May.

 

About a month later, he was strong enough to endure another surgery on his vocal cords, this time by the surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who operated on singer Julie Andrews.

 

Back to football

 

Wyche spent the next two years hoping his voice would improve.

 

At home, he helped Jane tend to their stable of four horses.

 

To satisfy his football fix, he served as a volunteer coach at Pickens High School. He nurtured multi-talented R.J. Webb, a former receiver and defensive back who will get his first chance to start at quarterback this year as a senior.

 

Wyche is so proud of Webb, who he says could be the next Michael Vick, that he's trying to get him to attend his alma mater of Furman University.

 

Wyche always wanted to coach high school kids, but was somewhat of a curiosity at Pickens. When opposing coaches arrived, the first person they'd head to shake hands with was Wyche. If Pickens ran up the score, foes blamed it on Wyche's presence.

 

Wyche could tell them something about fairness. He worked as a substitute teacher, making $48 a day after taxes. To break the monotony of 90-minute classes, he'd hold a halftime break and entertain the students with magic tricks honed during his days in Cincinnati.

 

Looking for a break

 

Wyche knew nearly everyone in the NFL, but no one was offering work. Then in February, Wyche found a team willing to take a chance on a football innovator who might still need a heart transplant.

 

New Buffalo coach Mike Mularkey, who worked under Wyche in Tampa, needed help. He had a first-year offensive coordinator, Tom Clements, and was looking for a coach with experience.

 

But Wyche had to pass a physical and endure a week-long tryout to determine whether his raspy voice was strong and loud enough for him to be effective.

 

``Maybe another team would have said, `You've got a coach whose heart's dying and he can't speak above a whisper or a quiet conversation and he hasn't coached in nine years. Let's see, do we want him on our staff?' '' Wyche said.

 

The Bills did. On the field, he'll wear a microphone pinned to his shirt and attached to a loudspeaker clipped to his waist. He'll do most of his coaching and teaching in between plays one-on-one or in small groups.

 

``I kind of gave up when my voice went,'' Wyche said of his return to football. ``Jane and I decided it would have to be the right situation and this is it. I know the people. We can freely talk and joke about my voice.''

 

But Zak Wyche, 33, assistant football coach at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, never gave up.

 

``I always thought he'd get back in it,'' Zak Wyche said. ``He's got too great a football mind not to be part of the game.

 

``He's an adventure-seeker. The thrill of strategizing against someone else is what he needs.''

 

Now boosted by that thrill, Wyche is exuberant once again.

 

``There's like a new life to him,'' Zak Wyche said.

 

How long Sam Wyche's heart is able to withstand the rigors of an NFL season is an open question. Even his cardiologist doesn't know for sure.

 

As Wyche rode around Pickens in his truck before departing for training camp, he kept his Buffalo Bills playbook by his side, ready to dive in if a spare moment arose. Not far from the spiral-bound, blue-covered playbook, the bag of pills laid on the passenger seat.

 

Two lifelines close at hand.

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