Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/19/12
HOUSTON -- Dallas Griffin has found an answer. "The really true part of the answer," he says, "is you can see the finish line and you can do everything in your power to get there and do everything right, and your best effort " He pauses to reconsider. Later in the conversation he will use terms like "risk profile" and "efficacy." Griffin is an investment banker. He proceeds with precision. "The short of it is, yeah, I probably used to think I was in control," he says, "just by the sheer illusion that everything had always come pretty easy to me." He is totally one of those people. Grew up in a good family in Katy, Texas, a Houston suburb. Played high school football at Katy Taylor High where he started out as "the slowest tight end in the state of Texas" and ended up at a gathering after the spring game at the University of Texans with a Texas Angel that's a girl who helps out at recruiting events saying to come over here because Coach (Mack) Brown wants to talk to you. "If UT was going to make a mistake and give me a scholarship," he said, "I was gonna take it more quickly than I could take it back." Then he got on the scout team at UT and was trying to block Marcus Stroud and it was like he wasn't even there, and then, by golly, there he was in the Cotton Bowl snapping the ball to Colt McCoy against Oklahoma. His teammates had voted him captain. Between snaps he did well enough in the classroom some people handed him the Draddy Award, which is kind of like the Heisman Trophy for academic specimens. Then he got an MBA at the University of Texas. Then got a good job at Simmons and Co. International in Houston. Griffin just kept doing the right things and kept getting rewarded for them. He is one of those people who sees life as a series of goals and challenges that all come with an instruction manual, and he is one of those people who follows instructions. So that's who you are, and then a doctor tells you your legs are numb not as a side effect of your four knee surgeries or some pressure on your spine from football but because you have Multiple Sclerosis. And you call up a German friend who doesn't understand English great but understands MS perfectly. In his country, he tells you, "we call if the Disease of a Thousand Faces." And for the first time in your life you truly know the meaning of uncertainty. "I don't know if I thought I was in control before," he said. "But I sure know I'm not now. That's ok." On Saturday Griffin will begin a bike ride from Houston to Austin, which is 180 miles. He will do this as a participant in a two-day event called the MS 150: Lone Star, which raises money for research, treatment and hopefully a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. The largest event of its kind in North America, it raised 16.9 million last year and organizers think they'll top that this time. There is some certainty with MS, which is that it does yet not have a cure, which means about 400,000 Americans wake up in the morning and take inventory of their central nervous system, checking that all the plugs are still firing. The disease disrupts messages between brain and body and does so in unpredictable ways. Sometimes the symptoms will just go away on their own, but often they'll go away for a while and come back as something worse. What Griffin deals with on a daily basis is a numbness in his feet that, on its own, is a minor inconvenience. He says he doesn't really know how much feeling he has down there, just that it is more than none and less than all of it. He takes medication to reduce the chances of attack the symptoms come and go, and that's what they call it when they come and some people think a diet low in fat can help, too. A smallish center who used to wake up in the middle of the night for a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich to see if he could stuff in another pound now rides bikes and competes in triathlons and weighs 180 pounds, which is 103 less than he did at his heaviest. He eats grilled chicken breasts with no butter or oil. His old teammates on the offensive line do not recognize this as a way to sustain human life. "I've had to tell them slowly," Griffin said. Griffin says he has had a great life, isn't afraid and doesn't worry about the future. Mack Brown, the coach at UT, taught him that. But riding in the MS 150 is only symbolically meaningful. It doesn't mean he has beaten the disease. It doesn't mean he won't wake up one of these days unable to move half his body or blind or with an arm that feels way hotter than it should. These things can happen to people with MS, and they can happen at any time. Finishing the MS 150 is not the same as a cancer survivor finishing a marathon. Griffin isn't riding because he beat the disease; he's riding because he still has it. "If we were to cure MS tomorrow I probably would not ride the bike," he said. The point is the money. In order to participate, you commit to raise at least 400. Thursday afternoon, Griffin said he had raised 38,861 "at the moment." A lot of people team up, which is what happened at Simmons and Co. Everybody pushes each other, both in raising the money and cycling the roads. Griffin is not the most experienced cyclist on the Simmons team (the farthest he's ever gone at one time is 75 miles). But that's OK, too. "With football I was mainly good by association," he said. "Coach Brown let me play at UT and let me be associated with guys like Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Those guys are good at football. I was mainly good because I got to play football with them. I'm a good cyclist by association with these guys too." Two new MS treatment drugs will hit the market this summer in large part because of fundraisers like the MS 150, and that's why Griffin is riding. "This ride is an opportunity for people to show they care and to raise money," he said. "It's the funds raised that will cure this disease, not the pedaling." Yet there's something about a finish line, and knowing it's there. It is a long ride, and the forecast calls for a 20-mile headwind. Many riders will not finish, and there's a question in that. "I will finish," Griffin said. "I'm gonna make it all the way there, if I have any control over it."
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