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Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy (Part II)

Read Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy — Part I.

Throughout Chris’ 12 years in the NFL, he was more than just a football player. He was a relationship builder.

“My mission was to get to know and understand the business of the game and build relationships within my team,” says Chris. “And not just within my team, but with other teams. Each team has an extreme amount of influence on their community.”

Building a community

“My goal was to understand how the NFL works and understand how the teams interact would then line up into being able to work at the NFL office and help make sure that we were the most impactful in our communities.”

Chris’ relationship building work led to a relationship between Chris and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“When Keasha was first diagnosed, Roger Goodell reached out and asked, ‘What can we do? What can the NFL do?’”

Chris said that Keasha had an amazing team of support from family and friends. But she had one wish that Goodell could help grant: Keasha wanted to go to the Super Bowl. Goodell helped make that happen. Chris and Keasha went to the Super Bowl in February 2011 in Dallas.

Chris also asked Goodell for help connecting him with the American Cancer Society, “for when Keasha was ready,” Chris says.

Keasha’s transforming moment

After months of chemotherapy, Keasha was becoming frail. Chris and Keasha decided to move up their wedding date to November 27, 2011, Thanksgiving weekend. Before the wedding, Keasha underwent an internal transformation. She continued fighting for herself, but also began focusing on how she could help others.

“Before we got married,” says Chris, “Keasha came to me and asked, ‘What if we don’t get presents? What if we ask our family and friends to give to the foundation so that we can fight against lung cancer?’

“That’s a tremendous point,” stresses Chris. “I consistently remind people that Team Draft, our initiative committed to changing the face of lung cancer, started with my wife. It started with a choice that she made. And a commitment, validated at our wedding, to fight for other people.”

Keasha had become a lung cancer advocate.

Creating Team Draft

“Team Draft’s mandate was clear — with that commitment of asking our family and friends for support — that her fight was going to be bigger, now our fight was going to be bigger.”

In his advocacy work, Chris encounters a lot of advocates. However, he makes a distinction between those advocating for themselves and those willing to advocate for others.

“It’s important that our survivors advocate for themselves,” says Chris. “But there is a difference between fighting for yourself and fighting for other people. That difference is the key to changing the public perception of lung cancer and increasing research funding.”

When stigma gets in the way…

At the age of 38, exactly one month after their wedding, Keasha passed away.

“One of the first people to call was Roger Goodell,” says Chris.

Earlier, Chris and Keasha were ready to make a difference. Chris then went to American Cancer Society “with the blessing and introduction of the NFL commissioner.”

“I said, ‘We want to work with you guys to raise money for research,’” Chris recalls. “They said, ‘All we have is the Great American Smokeout, in terms of lung cancer.’ I said, ‘Well, she didn’t smoke.’”

Chris and Keasha were both disappointed.

“I was hoping that when Keasha was ready, they would be ready. But they weren’t ready. Unfortunately, in November 2011, when we got married, American Cancer Society wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, when Keasha passed in December 2011, American Cancer Society wasn’t ready.

And then the NFL stepped up

“So, when the NFL Commissioner asked, ‘What can we do at the NFL?’ after Keasha passed, I said, ‘Well, I’m not so sure what you guys can do.”

Chris felt that he needed to do research to tap into hope.

“Where are the people standing up wanting to be hopeful?” he asked himself. “Because otherwise, there’s not really a place where the NFL can really flex its muscle if the people are not hopeful about where lung cancer is going.

“ESPN reached out, pretty much right after the commissioner, and asked if they could do our story for Superbowl 2012. I knew it was going to be difficult, but it was important for us to do it.”

Read Part III of Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • linfitness
    5 months ago

    Great story. However I am so sad to read that she only survived for a year! Heartbreaking. The upside is she left her mark with advocacy

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