Ex-Michigan State linebacker Brandon Denson plays with the Montreal Alouettes.
|Diabetes and Your Career|
Brandon Denson is used to fighting for the job he wants. As a high school senior who'd just been diagnosed with diabetes, Denson didn't have any offers to play football in college. He applied to a handful of schools with the hope that he'd at least get to play for fun. Instead, he walked on to the football team at Michigan State as a freshman and earned a full scholarship to play linebacker for the next three years of college (shown in the photo above as No. 34).
Doubts about his ability to go pro vanished the first time he stepped onto the field. "At that first game, I thought, 'I want to do this as a career,' " he says. Denson fulfilled his wish in 2011 when he was drafted to play for a professional team in Canada. This season, after first signing with the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team, Denson moved back to Canadian football with the Montreal Alouettes.
A large part of his success: good diabetes care. "If I don't take care of myself, they're not going to let me play sports," he says. So Denson sticks to a healthy diet and works out regularly, fastidiously monitoring how eating and exercise affect his blood glucose. He also takes care to make sure his insulin pump is secure beneath his pads because speeding down the field, tackling, and getting blocked are all part of the game.
But most important to realizing his dreams? Motivation. "I'm pretty determined, so when I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to get it done," he says.
It's a sentiment he's shared with others with diabetes since his college ball days, when a 13-year-old boy with diabetes wrote to him about being inspired by his play. "I never really spoke to anybody about my diabetes until that letter," he says of the note, which still hangs in his locker. "It opened my eyes that I need to tell people, especially kids, that it's OK if you have diabetes."
Denson still talks to the teen, who's now a senior in high school, and encourages his football aspirations. He's spoken with parents of children with diabetes as well as kids of all ages about going after their dreams. "We all have different stories," he says. "If you want to grow up and be a police officer, a swimmer, or a doctor, [diabetes] won't stop you."