Sep 162015

Seattle Seahawks’ J.R. Sweezy is not the tough offensive guard most people know when he’s around his wife Gissell. “She’s everything I ever wanted. I became so much happier when she came into my life. She’s my support system,” he says, lowering his gaze shyly, petting their black Labrador Otis.

Gissell laughs, returning his smile. “There’s that soft side of him that people don’t see,” Gissell says. “I think everyone sees him as just a football player. Not me. That’s just what he does for a living.”

J.R. and Gissell met in sixth grade after she and her family moved to Mooresville, North Carolina. “We were in homeroom together,” said Gissell. “We would laugh and talk, and we became friends.”

Although Gissell wasn’t in the same popular crowd as J.R. in high school, they continued their friendship and attended senior prom together. “We dated and broke up three times from high school into college,” said Gissell. “I was done after the last one,” she said, as she shook her head laughing.

Gissell attended Peace College while J.R. attended NC State University to play football, following his paternal grandfather Roger’s footsteps. “It took time for me to grow up and realize how special she is,” said J.R.

They led separate lives for five years until running into each other at Duckworth’s Grill while visiting family. “We talked for a month after that and then were back together,” said Gissell. “I felt peace. When we’re together everything makes sense.”

J.R. nodded his head with assurance. “We make each other better.”seahawks

Soon after getting back together, J.R. was drafted and selected by the Seattle Seahawks.

“Football is something I’ve always loved, and I’m blessed enough to do it,” said J.R. “We’ve won a lot of games because of our fans, the 12s. It’s the only place like that in the entire NFL, and I’m lucky enough to call it home,” he said about Century Link Field.

“I love it. I get goose bumps just thinking about running out of that tunnel. The 12s are so loud; they’re great fans—they set the mood and keep us going.”

J.R. believes the 12s will also support him in raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. “They go above and beyond, and I think they’re doing that outside of football too.”

J.R.’s Papaw Gene, a successful businessman, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease nine years ago. After seeing his maternal grandfather’s drastic decline last April, J.R. and Gissell decided to create #the12s Walk to End Alzheimer’s team to raise awareness nationally for Alzheimer’s disease.

“If we are raising money and have the right people researching and understanding it, maybe we will find a cure one day,” said J.R. “I want to raise awareness from coast to coast. We’re helping now for the future. It’s too late for Papaw Gene, but not for our kids.”

J.R. only gets to visit his papaw two or three times per year, but even now in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Papaw Gene will sometimes ask, “Is that the boy that plays football?” and reach for his Seahawks hat.

Both of J.R.’s grandfathers were prominent role models in his life. His Grandpa Roger not only played football, but exemplified hard work and taught J.R. “not to doubt myself, to do what is right and to be my own man. He told me that ‘til the day he died,” said J.R.

They were successful men who led by example. “I’ve learned never to take a day for granted. God’s the only one who knows the in-story.” said J.R. “Just like in football, we can’t take a day for granted, because it could all end in one moment.”

Although J.R. was at the Seahawks’ hotel in La Jolla, California preparing for their third exhibition game on the afternoon of August 29, Gissell was at Seattle University Park with her mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law and other Seahawks’ wives and girlfriends representing #the12s team and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re soul mates living the dream,” said Gissell. “Every day he works to be a better man—in football and in our personal lives. I’ll do anything for him because he’s the love of my life.”

To read more blogs from the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter, please visit this link.

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  10 Responses to “Seattle Seahawks Guard J.R. Sweezy Talks About His Fight Against Alzheimer’s”

  1. Love these blogs. This goes to show that it doesn’t matter who you are, young, old, famous, wealthy, poor….all of us will be affected by this disease and should consider joining in the effort to stop it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. I love this story so much! Thanks to J R & Gissell for bringing more awareness to this horrible disease! My mother has had it for 10 years and is also in the late stages and it's been a long and sad journey! I participated in an End Alzheimer's Walk in Marion, OH on Saturday and so appreciate the Alzheimer Association for organizing these great events! We need to all work together to find a cure! My prayers are with JR & his family and all families dealing with this disease!

  3. I love hearing about others trying to raise Alzheimer's Awareness. Our family just walked for the 13th year in OKC. I lost my husband in 2007, I was a widow at 56. We run The Santa Market craft show every year and all our proceeds goes to Alzheimers here in OK. Last year we raised $9300.00. We work all year on this show and hopefully someday we won't have to do it. If you're reading this come on out and see us. It is Nov. 21, from 9 to 5, in Edmond OK. We're always looking for sponsors and help. Please LIKE our fan page for more info. Thanks Joan Clarke

  4. JR and Gissell THANK YOU for all you are doing to help with Alzheimer’s!!!! My mom was the oldest of 12. She and 5 of her siblings had the early onset Alzheimer’s. Each had this horrible disease between 38 to 42 years. Yes at the prime of life!!! Now my sweet precious sister has it. She started showing signs around age 40, 12 years ago. She is still alive not living the life she had dreamed of though. My children and.grandchildren will be walking October 3rd in Hickory NC as Nan’s Crew!!! I pray teams will join you, others and me as we support.research and caregivers!!!! Thanks again for all you are doing!!!! God Bless You Both!!!

    Lorraine Wilkinson

  5. God Bless J.R. and Gissell and their family. I just lost my husband two months ago after a 4 year battle with Alzheimer's Our family participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's in San Antonio Tx. this past weekend. It was uplifting to see so many people out to support this cause, however, it is sad to know that each participant has been affected in some way by this terrible disease. Will continue praying that this disease will be eliminated.

  6. I loved reading this and yes we can make a difference in this fight for Alzimers's. I wish you God's speed in this Journey.

  7. I search on blogs and forums about alzheimers since my granny has it and I keep trying to find new ways to help her. This blog, I can say is where my search ends. The way this story has been beautifully presented is just overwhelming. I would also like to thank JR and gissell for trying to raise awareness. We really need more people like you.

  8. Sounds like it’s another good cause for raising awareness about the disease and the hope for researchers to find a cure. I would also love to see more of these awareness groups focusing on the overwhelming need for financial help and/or caregiving help for the loved ones in the family who are the daily caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients…And it seems to me that this focus would require advocates–regular people just like us as well as lobbyists working with the federal and state legislatures. Many many families are taking major financial hits in trying to keep up with the incredible caregiving demands. Let’s talk about the need to provide 24-hour care directly yourself or indirectly for your loved one while living with the emotional, physical, and financial demands of this disease. Many caregivers tend to get very isolated and they have very little help or support from other family members and friends which is devastating to the caregivers…and often these caregivers are already much worse off because of the financial devastation.

  9. I am doing a Walk for Alzheimer’s tomorrow in Waynesboro,Va. In Honor of mama that Passed away July,28,2014 after a 10 year battle. I was her only caregiver all that time. So after she passed I work for a company called “Home Instead Senior care” I become caregiver to a couple that have been married 63 years and they are fighting it.

    My mama oldest sister passed from it and now her son who is 76. Years old is fighting it now.

    I’ll keep you in my Thoughts and Prayers from Virginia..

    God Bless,

    Debbie McCormick

  10. I just did the South Shore Walk for Alzheimer's in Plymouth ,Mass on Sept 19th and I learned that Congress passed the Cure Law which gives 8.75 billion for Alzheimer's research which I thought was great. Althought it is probably too late for my Mom but it will be there for our kids in the future. #EndAlz.

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