Above (left), “Penn State’s Steve Smith (33) was a bulldozing fullback with a good set of wheels. But he believes playing arguably the game’s most brutal position led to head trauma and ALS that has all but paralyzed him for more than a decade. [Photo: Richard Drew, AP]; (right), Chie Smith helps her husband, Steve, use a computer controlled by eye movements. However, he struggles now to even communicate with that because of deteriorating health. He’s battled ALS for 15 years … the disease the former Penn State fullback believes was caused by years of head trauma from football. [Photo: Frank Bodani]
by Frank Bodani
“RICHARDSON, Texas — She leaned in close to ask him a question.
“One of the great Penn State football leaders looked up from his wheelchair. He cannot speak to his wife anymore.
“The best he can do is move his eyes from side to side for, ‘No.’
“A blink means, ‘Yes.’
“Only the rhythmic whoosh of air from his breathing machine cut the quiet.
“Finally, Steve Smith blinked. And then he smiled, slow and big.
“The fullback and captain of Penn State’s last national championship team has not walked or talked on his own — has not been able to even hold his wife’s hand — in more than a decade.
“‘Superman,’ as his Nittany Lion teammates once called him, cannot do anything for himself, despite an apparently clear mind.
“Even more, he fights on after renouncing the sport that shaped his entire life.”
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