The Heart of a Hall of Famer

Hall of Famer Rod Carew with the Minnesota Twins, Konrad Reuland with the New York Jets

Hall of Famer Rod Carew with the Minnesota Twins, Konrad Reuland with the New York Jets

When it comes to NFL legends the name Konrad Reuland will never come up. An undrafted Tight End who went to Notre Dame and later went to Stanford had just 12 career receptions, for 90 yards in his NFL career. Konrad Reuland was the type of player that reported to training camp every summer and had to fight to earn a job. Most years, Reuland loss that fight as he was in camp for four different teams, beginning with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, where he spent the entire season on the Practice Squad. Konrad Reuland appeared to have the same fate in 2012, before he was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets. He would spend two seasons, with the Jets making 11 catches, before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury on November 19, 2013. After a long rehab, Reuland signed with the Indianapolis Colts, but never made it off the practice squad, he later would spend time on the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens, before making his final NFL catch in 2015.

Konrad Reuland displayed a never give attitude in his NFL career, and despite rarely seeing the field, returned to the Indianapolis Colts in 2016, but was released on August 29th. A few months later Konrad Reuland was rushed to the hospital suffering a brain aneurysm on November 28, 2016. Doctors performed surgery the next day, but it would not save his life. On life support for the next two weeks, Konrad Reuland died on December 12th, but his heart beats on as he became an organ donor.

 

Rod Carew at 2016 appearance wearing the left ventricular assist device.

Hall of Famer Rod Carew at 2016 appearance in Minnesota wearing the left ventricular assist device.

 

A year earlier Rod Carew, one of baseball’s all-time greatest hitters and a Hall of Famer suffered a massive heart attack, while playing golf in California. Carew was hospitalized for more than six weeks, and had several surgeries, which culminated with implantation of a left ventricular assist device. However, if the 70-year old from Panama was going to live long term, he was going to need a new heart as well as a new kidney. Over the next year, Rod Carew became the face of an organ donor campaign, called “The Heart of 29”, the number he had retired for two different teams the Minnesota Twins and California (now Los Angeles) Angels. While awaiting his transplant, Rod Carew became involved in medical wear to make it more fashionable as well as easier to carry the left ventricular assist device, which was keeping his badly damaged heart pumping.

On December 12th as Konrad Reuland was taken of life support, Rod Carew was informed a heart had been found, three days later he would receive a new heart and kidney that was donated by the football player who tried so hard to make his name in the NFL. As with all organ donor stories there is tragedy and triumph, joy and sadness. Sadness for Reuland’s family who lost a son and brother at the tender age of 29. Joy though for Rod Carew and the people who love him, as he gets a chance to live longer, while demonstrating the benefits of being an organ donor.

Konrad Reuland will never be in the NFL Hall of Fame, but his heart now beats in a Baseball Hall of Famer, one who was one of baseball’s best hitters. Rod Carew who played for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels from 1967-1985, was an All-Star in all but his final season, winning the Rookie of the Year in 1967 and the MVP in 1977. Along the way, Carew won seven batting titles in a ten year stretch between 1969-1978. At last year’s All-Star Game, Major League Baseball announced they would rename the American League Batting Title in honor of Rod Carew. If that does not say the heart of champion I don’t know what does.

Frank Fleming is the creator of The Sports Ecyclopedia

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