Former Super Bowl champion and Four Horsemen member Steve "Mongo" McMichael has revealed that he's battling ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
The 63-year-old McMichael shared his diagnosis in interviews with the Chicago Tribune and WGN. ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, "is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord."
The Chicago Tribune wrote that McMichael initially thought he was dealing with a neck or spine issue, but it was first suggested that it could be ALS during a September 2020 visit to a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. In January, doctors at Rush University Medical Center confirmed the ALS diagnosis. A neurologist at the UIC Medical Center said in February that it's likely the disease began setting in 36 months earlier.
"The recent progression of degeneration through McMichael’s limbs has been jarring. First his right arm went dead, then the left," the Chicago Tribune wrote. "Then his left leg began to weaken significantly. Now his right leg is following close behind." McMichael has also lost 50-60 pounds.
McMichael said one of the reasons he chose to reveal his diagnosis publicly is because he wants people to know why they're no longer going to be seeing him around in public.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help with the costs of McMichael's care. McMichael, his wife Misty, and their 13-year-old daughter Macy need to find a handicap-accessible home.
McMichael has applied for the NFL's "88 Plan," which provides former NFL players with financial help for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and/or Parkinson’s disease. The Chicago Tribune notes that the plan should open the door for McMichael to receive up to $144,000 annually when approved.
The Chicago Bears, where McMichael played for 13 years during his NFL career, have provided the customized wheelchair that McMichael is using.
Obvious Shirts has "Team Mongo" T-shirts available for pre-order. All of the proceeds will be donated to McMichael and his family.
“I’m not in a depression, brother,” McMichael told the Chicago Tribune. “This disease came onto Lou Gehrig when he was still playing baseball. At least it waited until I was an old man. I’ve lived so long that I’ve seen and done things I want to forget.”
McMichael was a two-time Pro Bowler during his career as a defensive lineman in the NFL. After football, McMichael joined WCW in 1995 and was with the promotion until 1999. He worked for WCW as both a commentator and a wrestler and was part of the Four Horsemen. McMichael was a one-time United States Champion in WCW.
McMichael also appeared for the WWF in 1995 as part of Lawrence Taylor's match against Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event of WrestleMania XI. McMichael was among the NFL players who accompanied Taylor to the ring.
“Hell yes, I would do it all over again,” McMichael told the Chicago Tribune about his career. “Because it’s that journey that’s the reward. It’s that climb and how hard it was to substantiate yourself as out of the ordinary. That kind of achievement isn’t just given to you.”
ALS currently has no cure. The ALS Association states that the average survival time for those diagnosed with the disease is three years, but about 20 percent of people diagnosed with ALS live five years, 10 percent will survive 10 years, and five percent will live 20 years or longer.