More MS news articles for Dec 2001

MS not slowing down ex-Raider

Humm is confined to a wheelchair, but that hasn't prevented him from living a full and productive life

Published Saturday, December 22, 2001

FORMER RAIDERS BACKUP quarterback David Humm is treated like Santa Claus when he visits his daughter's elementary school in Las Vegas. Courtney, 11, and her friends stand in line to sit on his lap and go for rides on his sleigh.

His sleigh happens to be a wheelchair. Humm, 49, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988 and lost the use of his legs in 1997, when he called the Raiders to tell them he would have to resign after two seasons as the color commentator on their radio broadcasts because he no longer would be able to travel to games.

"When I went from limp to cane to chair, it killed me because I was having so much fun," said Humm, who earned two Super Bowl rings in his seven years (1975-79 and '83-84) with the Raiders. "If you ever notice, there's always an awful lot of ex-Raiders around the game. Those weekends spent with Ted Hendricks, Otis Sistrunk, Jim Plunkett and the boys, every week was a family reunion. Plus I got to cover the game."

The Raiders refused to let Humm go. "I called Mr. (Al) Davis and told him I can't do the travel and will have to drop off the broadcast. And I got just three words -- 'Find a way.'"

Humm now is in his fifth season as an analyst on the Raiders' pre- and postgame shows on "The Ticket" (1050-AM). In the first four years, he had to load his wheelchair into a car and drive to a radio station in his hometown of Las Vegas each week to borrow equipment. This year, he does the show from the comfort of his home because the den has been turned into a studio.

"'The Ticket' has been incredible to me to make the concessions that needed to be made for me to be a part of this," he said. "I'm humbled that they would include me. In some form of fashion, the Raiders have been a part of my life since 1975, my rookie year. For it to be this long, which is a long time, to have them include me is a little humbling.

"The Raiders cut me three times (as a player) and brought me back each time. Now I'm back again. You don't find that loyalty in sports. It all comes from the top. It all comes from Al Davis."

Listeners of "The Ticket" would never know Humm is in Las Vegas because of the "chemistry" he has developed with "J.T. the Brick" (John Tournour), former Raiders cornerback George Atkinson and Artie Gigantino on the shows.

Humm and Atkinson are close friends despite being teammates for only three seasons (1975-77). "To me, he is a brother and a friend and someone I respect, not only from watching him play and playing with him but as a man and the guy that he is," Humm said.

"That's my guy. I love him to death," Atkinson said. "It's amazing how sharp he is, even with the disease he has. You would never know he has MS.

"J.T. the Brick" enjoys working with Humm, whom he has never met. "You don't have to have him sitting there because we have a rhythm. He understands the timing. That's what it's all about," J.T. said. "He's a pleasure to work with because he's a professional."

When Humm is in his den, he is not alone. Courtney, who lives with Humm's ex-wife, Kellye, is at his side every Sunday and wears a headset so she can listen to the shows.

"She's the greatest joy in my life. Of everything that's happened to me in my life, she's kind of the topper," he said. "My life's been blessed with football and friends and all the travel, and she makes it perfect."

Shortly after Humm lost the use of his legs, parents of students at Courtney's school were asked to volunteer as lunch monitors. He offered to help, taking time away from his job as the director of marketing and sales for a company that designs Web sites for hotels and casinos. Humm wanted to do his part even though he knew he would stand out in the crowd of parents because he sits in a wheelchair.

"I was different," Humm said. "I wheeled out and was at the playground when the kids came out. Some of (Courtney's) friends came out and said, 'Cool chair.' I said, 'Do you want to ride?' I had about 15 girls waiting in line to take turns riding in my lap around the school yard. Then after that, I was the coolest dad in school because no one else had a chair to ride around in.

"I'm a park bench they can sit on and a shopping cart they can load. They always have a place to put stuff and they always have a place to sit. I'm like a closet. They can hang stuff on the back of the chair and I can drag it all over. I'm kind of multi-use. It's a good lesson for the kids. We're not all whole. There are people who have a disability, but look at what they do."

Humm said Courtney often tells him that her favorite times are when he attends her sporting events and visits her class for show-and-tell. He admitted he has had to learn to control his emotions when he is cheering for his daughter.

"I used to do the fist in the air and I used to mouth the words 'I love you' to her," he said. "She would come over to me and say, 'All my friends saw you do that and you embarrassed me.' Now, just her knowing that I'm there is enough."

When it comes time for show-and-tell, Humm always brings memorabilia from his NFL career. "I'm kind of an old man who wheels into her classes and everybody says, 'One more old man, one more dad.' Then I take my stuff out. Once the Raiders helmet comes out, all the boys stand up and say, 'You played for the Raiders? You the man.' Lord, the power of logos."

Humm has gear from his days at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas and the University of Nebraska as well as the three NFL teams for which he played. In addition to the Raiders, he played with the Buffalo Bills (1980) and Baltimore Colts (1981-82).

It was one of his former high school coaches who broke the news to Humm in 1988 that he had multiple sclerosis. Bill Somers was the quarterbacks coach at Bishop Gorman before becoming an optometrist. When Humm began to lose vision in his right eye, he visited Somers' office.

"He was a friend of mine and I trusted him very much," Humm said. "When he said, 'David, you've got MS,' I thought it was like a sprained ankle. I said, 'OK, what do I do and how long will I have it?' He said. 'This one they don't cure.'"

As news of his condition spread among his family and friends, Humm found himself trying to ease their concerns instead of worrying about himself.

"Everybody made too big a deal out of this. When I first got diagnosed, the hardest part was all my friends cared so much about me and were calling me," he said. "I had to tell them, 'Stop worrying about me. When they find a cure, I'll let you know.' That's been the hardest part, breaking my friends of caring so much that I lose so much time with them saying, 'Are you OK?' I say, 'I'm fine, are you OK?' Now I've got them trained."

As much as he appreciates their concern, the last thing Humm wants is for anyone to feel sorry for him because he has MS.

"I'm so busy living my life that I don't think about it. I live a full and normal and functional life." Humm said. "This MS, I have a handicap where I can't walk, but I don't feel handicapped in any way. I work a full-time job, then I do broadcasting on the weekends. My girl is involved in sports year-round, and I never miss an event. With my wheelchair, I'm completely mobile. There is nothing handicapped about me. What I'm going through is really nothing. It's more of a nuisance.

"I have a lot to celebrate and nothing, not even for a moment, to feel bad about. I have lived the most blessed, the most incredible life that any person could ever ask to live. What's not to like? This MS is one thing. People make it a bigger thing. MS is not me. It doesn't define me at all. MS is a handicap. It means I get better parking spaces."

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