Tedy Bruschi’s new book is mostly about his 2005 stroke, his surgery, his trailblazing return to professional football and his inspiration.
It’s the last part, more than anything, that resonates after 268 pages.
And her name is Heidi.
Early in “Never Give Up,” Bruschi writes about his struggles with alcohol, including while at UA. It was there that he met Heidi Bomberger, a Sahuaro High School graduate, UA volleyball player and one-year walk-on with Arizona’s softball team.
“Heidi told me that she thought I had charisma when she first met me and that’s one of the things she found attractive,” Bruschi writes.
“But there’s a fine line between being charismatic and being a jerk, and, honestly, I could be both. Take that chip on my shoulder, add alcohol to my body and things just exploded in me.
“My whole mentality changed when I drank, and there were times I went crazy. I was very destructive. I started fights. I verbally abused people. I broke things.
“If the campus cops heard about a bunch of guys from the football team showing up a party and causing trouble, they suspected the group I was with.”
Bruschi, a college All-American defensive end-turned-All-Pro linebacker with the New England Patriots, married Heidi 10 years ago this summer. He writes there came a time in their marriage when he had to choose between being a family man or continuing to be the college party kid.
Thanks to Heidi, he says, family is the most important thing in his life.
And if you’ve seen the pictures of him play wrestling with his boys on the field before the 2005 Super Bowl – his third championship with New England – you know he made the right decision.
He writes about Sept. 11, 2001, when he met teammates at quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s house “to be together at such a confusing and strange time for our country.”
Bruschi tells about leaving, driving home drunk and calling Heidi, who was concerned about his condition. Bruschi made it home, decided to sleep on the couch and woke up to see Heidi, pregnant with their second child, holding their son, Tedy Jr.
“What’s it going to be, Tedy?” she said. “How far is this going to go?”
He writes that he hasn’t had a drink since.
It’s a small part of the book, and certainly not the focus, but it’s a telling moment of how and why Bruschi became all grown up.
He would use that maturity and stable family life as a backbone for his recovery from the stroke, which hit one day after the 2005 Pro Bowl while he was at home.
The stroke led to the discovery of a hole in his heart, which was repaired surgically. He initially decided to retire, thankful he would recover enough to hold his children.
The most fascinating part of the book is Bruschi describing the marital tension as he – and doctors – later became convinced he could return to football. As an uncertain Heidi would tell her mother, “This is the father of my children!”
Heidi journeyed through the educational process with her husband, grilling doctors along the way, hoping to get the answers she wanted to hear.
One explained to them that during the stroke, “the blood clot had entered my brain and then broken off into six different branches. Any one of those six could have taken my vision, my speech, or even my life.
“(We) were fortunate that the branches of the clots went to silent spots in my brain, spots that everyone has.”
That doctor, and others before him, said Bruschi was as good as new, that he could become the first stroke victim to play in the NFL. But what he craved was Heidi’s approval.
That night she told him, “I am strong and I’m going to be strong for you . . . I think you feel that you’ve been carrying the burden by yourself, but you don’t have to do that anymore. ‘Cause I’m here with you, and we can do this.”
Bruschi did indeed return during the 2005 season, becoming an inspiration to other stroke victims. Before his first game, he received an e-mail from Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, another UA alumnus.
“Congratulations on your comeback, your courage, and your perseverance,” Francona wrote.
The last word struck Bruschi. He called Heidi.
“That’s what we’re been doing this entire time, honey,” he said. “We’ve been persevering. He got the right word.”
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘NEVER GIVE UP’
Written by: Tedy Bruschi and Michael Holley
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Notable: A portion of the proceeds will go to the American Stroke Association.