I’ve lived many years in this astonishing voyage called life. I experienced so many things that I couldn’t have ever imagined as a youngster running around on the field in the above picture. I’m grateful for each and every day.
I’m now at a crossroads in my life. Today, my intent is to think about love, memories, and deep appreciation of the loved ones in my life. But, I can’t help but ponder the journey and outcomes of over five decades of choices and opportunities. As you can probably tell, this is not an article about the Kentucky Wildcats. I hope you don’t mind to allow me a few minutes to get some things off my chest. The following is much more important than sport, at least it is for me.
There are two ways in which I can write this article to paint an accurate picture of the now. One avenue would be to describe my 54 years as “The life I chose.” I’m good with that. The second would be to say that, “Life isn’t fair.” I choose the first option.
My existence has been filled with extreme highs and damning lows. I’ve been almost wealthy and flat-out broke a few times. I’ve made both exceptional and unfortunate decisions along the way. But I keep coming back to two things; I’m loved and I love. In my humble opinion, there is nothing more important in life than love.
As some of you have speculated following radio and podcast irregularities, no, I’m not alright. I have not done my best work lately. I do two things for a living: I write and I talk. Neither has been up to my standards recently.
My days are now consumed by talking about words like “cognitive impairment,” “aphasia,” “auditory processing,” and other terms that I ironically can’t remember instead of concentrating on out-routes, pass rush, and touchdowns. I’ve been a bit distracted by weekly trips to the hospital to undergo tests and seek therapy and treatment.
I’ve kept my health situation private for reasons all for myself. I’m an open book at work and a closed one in my free time; however, it was necessary to tell those closest to me personally and professionally. I informed Drew and Tyler around the time that the KSR crew traveled to Nashville for SEC Media Days. This was my first and most difficult first step in reaching out. Tyler was on a need-to-know basis due to her editorial role. Same for Drew.
Despite Tyler and Drew’s discreet editorial support, my written work was trending downward, or at least in my eyes. Articles that formerly took thirty minutes to compose required several hours and assistance. Referencing, formulation, construction, and research were overwhelming.
I found myself hesitant or reluctant to speak on air. Not because I was shy all of a sudden; I just don’t process words like I used to back in the day. My famous or infamous black notebooks full of stats and names for show prep have been replaced by giant poster boards. I needed more room. I now lean on pre-written notes or prepared messages instead of free-flowing discussions. Often I regurgitate Adam Luckett’s fact sheets and tweets. Formulating and producing original thought were becoming a fading trait.
I’m okay and self-aware enough to not be past embarrassment. I was and remain to be extremely self-conscious about it all. This especially applies when I find myself staring at co-hosts and get a little lost in conversation. When that happens, Drew brings me back by a look or a code that we’ve developed over time. My speech is also a little slower. Not bad, but enough. I sound sad, but I’m not. I’m merely physically, neurologically, and emotionally stressed to spontaneously communicate. As Mark Stoops likes to say, I’m straining, man.
I’ve re-watched or listened to shows and or podcasts that I’m on. I never did that in the past. This is likely due to self-consciousness. I called the South Carolina quarterback Spurrier, couldn’t or didn’t remember Jimbo Fisher, and failed to recall Will Levis. We all have slip-ups. Mine are frequent and little more than just brain farts. Getting lost and confused is an uncomfortable feeling of desperation. It’s not all the time mind you, but some is enough to scare me to reach out for help.
I could have used many other examples. You may or may not have noticed. Probably not. Maybe you will now. But, I sure can. The listening audience deserves better. A two-hour pregame show in 2023 leads to pure exhaustion. I’m literally soaked with sweat after. The effort and want-to are there. Again, as Mark Stoops often demands, I’m straining. The upstairs wiring is just crossed at the moment. We are working to get all that straightened out. I still thoroughly enjoy the shows. But, being a burden is my phobia.
I’ve kept my health mostly secret, until today. There are reasons that are only for me. However, I find it only fair to inform KSR listeners and readers about what’s going on. Plus, if this article can remotely help those who are struggling to go through day-to-day life, then this post was well worth it. We all have our battles. This is mine. It’s okay to not be okay. Reach out. Get help. I’m a Maggard. We don’t do that. But, I did. I’m glad I did.
If you begin to feel sorry for me while reading this, STOP. Please. Don’t like it. Pity is not my love language. Matters of the brain are delicate, complicated, and can be unpredictable. I’m in no immediate danger of losing my life or my immediate faculties. I am functioning and going about my daily life. I just need to strengthen up with proactive care.
How I feel today could go on for several years. Maybe I get better, maybe I stay the same, or maybe I get worse. I’m fine with all three but would obviously prefer to be better. That’s why I’ve been attacking therapy at the Lexington VA Hospital with the same ferocity that I approached athletic training camps, boardrooms, or while in the Army.
I’m so blessed to have the Lexington VA. My Care Team consists of professionals who are very good at their jobs. They are providing excellent care, guidance, and perspective. From Primary Care to all the specialists and therapists, I’m receiving the best care available. Again, I’m incredibly grateful for the VA. I repeat a lot of stuff these days. I’m purposefully doing so now. They’re great.
My Care Team put me through days and weeks of testing. Following that, I was directed to accept and vigorously confront therapy, I am. For example, my speech therapist is a star. She tailors our sessions around football to facilitate thought and communication. I’m taking a Tai Chi class. I also receive audio therapy, chiropractic procedures, acupuncture treatments, and physical therapy. I’ve got all the cool pick-it-up grabbers imaginable and a cane when my balance is off. I’m enrolled in TBI and Pain Clinics; both are enlightening and beneficial. The headaches hurt, but we are dealing with that in multiple ways. I fully trust my Care Team. Respect.
My KSR family is the sweetest. As mentioned above, I broke the news to Drew and Tyler right around SEC Media Days. Drew was supportive in Nashville. He saw first-hand that my SEC team preview articles that once took an hour per program were now taking several hours to complete. He kept an eye on me at the event, after hours, and at the “House Hotel.” Tyler has been tremendously helpful in editing written material. She provides a great deal of beautiful encouragement. She’s the best and checks on me all the time.
I informed Zack a little later. He edits my Sunday AARs and has been wonderfully patient and understanding. Additionally, Drew is always seated next to me on broadcasts. Franklin jumps in to save me if or when I get stuck, confused, or frustrated. The same goes for podcasts. Maria is the best as well. She’s caring and invaluable. Most other KSR folks found out about my issues just prior to this article being published. I never wanted to be a bother. Things happen fast in this racket; I did not want to be a reason for slowing down the process.
Everybody in the Corporation is busy and focused. I appreciate them doing their thing. I was a bit scared to tell Matt. If you knew the Boss like I do, he’s one of the most helpful and thoughtful dudes on the planet. But, he’s so busy. I’ve been taught since childhood to never interrupt anyone at work. I was also kinda afraid that he’d look at me differently afterward. Not in a bad way at all, but in a helping and empathetic way in which I knew he’d react. I also didn’t want to interfere with the pregame show’s creativity. I’ll forever be in debt to my KSR family. Unconditional folks.
I teared up once Matt called. I explained what was going on. He immediately told me that he loved me and that he and all things KSR would be there for me unconditionally and completely. The fifteen-minute call included at least 5 “I love you”s. Matt also related his health situation and the freedom that came with him publically acknowledging his health to the masses. I felt better. I felt relieved. I also felt like I was on a mission to help others. He dropped a deep line that I can’t remember exactly, but the summary is that it’s okay to not be okay. The phone call with Ryan was as you’d expect, tears and a bunch of “I love you”s.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Now that you know what’s going on with me, it’s only fitting to begin this segment with an old adage that I’ve used in most of my articles over the years: “What Does All This Mean?”
My Care Team has developed a plan to move forward. I’ve not been caught up on diagnosis words or what could be next as in possibilities. I’m using the terms as an opportunity; a chance to beat or confront whatever is going on inside my brain. My immediate answer is “Yes” when asked if I’d like to try this or that therapy.
As far as work, heck, I don’t know. One thing I’m sure of is the love from my KSR family. I’ll be on the radio and podcasts as long as I’m beneficial. When I’m not, I’ll walk away. I never want to be an on-set prop. I want the others on the show to relax, have fun, and continue to produce the best radio in America. Because that’s what we do.
I hope to continue writing. I admit that I get help constructing articles. The main storylines are mine. Writing is good for me and is great therapy. It is also a boundless treatment tool that stimulates thought and cerebral processing. I need to write. I love to write. I want to write. I’ll also do that as long as I’m beneficial. When I’m not, I’ll walk away.
I’m incredibly blessed with a wonderful family that absolutely loves me and I love without boundaries. I have two awesome kids that I adore. “Dad” is the best title I’ve had the honor to be called. I’m very close to my sister and her family. We’ve grown even closer since our mom and dad passed away. I told her about my situation just today. That was a tough call to make. She’s going through some health stuff herself and worries about us all. I didn’t want to bring on more stress. But, we are Maggards. We don’t talk about health stuff or perceived weaknesses. We were raised to believe that injuries were a “Long way from your heart” or to “Walk it off “and everything would be okay.
You can frequently see my nieces Alli and Stephanie and/or my nephew Keaton at KSBar for pregame shows. They see me as the funny and cool uncle. They call me Bubba. I love that. Bubba is another title that I cherish. We laugh. I need that. Everyone needs to laugh. I love my family dearly. Oh yeah, I can’t leave out my dog Milie and cat Daisy. They’re Maggards too.
My best friend of nearly fifty years, Chris Hernandez, has been there for me from the beginning. That was a tough conversation. Like my sister Samantha, he’s often worried about me. He checks on me daily. Heck, he’s done that for five decades.
I rarely start or finish a day without Chris’ texts popping up on my phone. If I don’t immediately respond, a phone call is next. Unconditional. I have a few friends like that. My circle is incredibly small and sadly shrinking by the year. I’m blessed. I’m grateful. I’m honored. I’m loved and I love.
So, what’s my prognosis? Who knows. The brain is mysterious and funny. I’m just in the beginning stages of treatment, testing, and therapy. Just know this: I’m receiving the best care possible and I’m attacking therapy and treatment. I’m enjoying life the best that I can. I’ve never been the most talented but I’ve always been coachable. My VA Care Team is now my head coach. I’m eagerly doing as I’m told.
I’m also learning to live with the fact that it’s okay to not be okay. Writing this article has been incredibly difficult yet helpful. It has taken weeks to construct. Keeping my health secret wasn’t fair to anyone. It was also an exhausting process. If you only remember one thing from this essay, please know that it’s okay to not be okay. Folks care. Folks love. Reach out. Check on a friend or a complete stranger. Be kind, love, and be loved.
Again, please don’t feel sorry for me nor treat me with kid gloves. There are people suffering through much more serious situations than what I’m experiencing. I’m okay. I just felt the need to clear up the air a little bit. That was the only fair and right thing to do.
I’ll end this article by repeating the article’s title, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” This is the life I chose. It’s time for me to square up, ruck up, and fight. Let’s Go!