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Football Fulfills Dreams, Then Turns Into Nightmare for NFL Wife

Cyndy and Grant met in college and were married in 1983.  “He was so smart and athletic,” says Cyndy.  He was going to be a dentist after graduation but was drafted by the then Baltimore Colts in 1983.  Grant’s 10-year career took him to the Vikings and ended with the Seahawks.  He played in 117 games as a center, an offensive lineman position whose body gets banged up with every snap of the ball. 

“Those jarring collisions with powerful nose guards took their toll on Grant in physical, mental and spiritual ways,” says Cyndy.  His personality slowly began to change but Cyndy didn’t realize what was going on.  After he was picked up by the Seahawks, Grant had serious knee surgery and got a staph infection.  He continued to play but after this injury, Grant was doing unusual things though like drinking alcohol.  “He would drink a 6-pack and put it in the trash outside,” says Cyndy.  “It wouldn’t have been a big deal but he was hiding it.”  The drinking continued; Grant even started putting whiskey in his diet soda to be able to sleep at night.  He continued to do slightly unusual things, but Cyndy had no idea what was disconnecting in his mind.

“We both came from Christian families,” says Cyndy.  She felt like she couldn’t go to anyone with their problems.  He was hiding the pills and his drinking.  In 1993, Grant retired from the NFL and took a job as a sales rep for a medical company.  For the rest of their lives together, Cyndy says Grant was always figuring out how to get more prescription painkillers. He also began drinking regularly. 

“[He was] making decisions that would ruin our family,” Cindy says.  Cyndy didn’t know that Grant was entering the final stage 3 progression of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Though she wasn’t aware of the disease, she knew she was losing the man she loved.  In the last few years of Grant’s life, the physical and mental erosion from CTE and abusing alcohol and prescription drugs would speed up rapidly.

Cyndy and Grant were involved in their church, but by 2010, Grant’s daily drinking and emotional abuse had taken its toll. In 2011, she moved out.  Their divorce was final in March 2012.  In April, Grant’s health took a turn for the worse.  While he was in the hospital, Grant told Cyndy he was sorry for how he treated her.  He said, “If I’d only known that what I loved the most would end up killing me and taking away everything I loved, I would have never done it.”  

On July 15, 2012, Grant passed away.  His brain was donated to science.  The Concussion Legacy Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Boston University CTE Center work together to study CTE, which can begin months, years or even decades after the last brain trauma.  CTE can only be tested for postmortem when scientists study the brain tissues for a buildup of an abnormal protein known as tau.  This protein is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and progressive dementia.  It was determined that Grant was in Stage 3 (CTE diagnostic severity has a ranking system 1 to 4, 4 being the highest.)  There was no structural damage due to alcoholism but his alcohol abuse produced liver and kidney failure which was the cause of his death.

“The revelation that Grant had CTE was a game changer for me,” says Cyndy.  “I now had a much better understanding of the underlying reasons for his behavior.”  She says her story is not unique; many athletes suffer from CTE.  From what she knows, Cyndy says all head banging sports should be seriously considered.  “I would first research and read up on everything I could about concussions,” she says.  “The brain is like butter and there’s no helmet out there that can keep you from a head injury.”

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Guest Info


Author, After the Cheering Stops, Nelson 2016

Art Teacher

Married to her late husband, Grant for 29 years

3 children


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