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'He was like a father figure': Buckeye, ALS communities remember William White

Former Ohio State football player William White died on July 28 after his battle with ALS.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The OSU football community lost someone many describe as a legend, hero and mentor to so many. William White, former all-American defensive back, died after battling ALS, at 56 years old.

White impacted not only the Buckeye community but inspired others who were suffering from ALS and helped spread awareness by being open with the fight for his life.

Maurice Hall, an actor and former OSU football player, was among the many young players White mentored.

“It’s been very emotional for me,” Hall shares. He tells 10TV this week he lost two of the most influential men in his life, his father and William, who he says was another father figure.

Hall met White at 9 years old when he moved to Columbus and attended the Carter White Football clinic at OSU.

“It was a surreal experience. And, you know, it all started with William, because, you know, he welcomed me at a young early age,” White recalls. “Anybody who knows, William knows, he's, like, super gracious, super nice. But also, like, holds you accountable. Which is, which is what you want, especially, you know, and a man and then a football player as well.”

Hall says White inspired him on and off the field, sharing in faith that kept him and his fellow players going.

White developed ALS in 2016, a fight that Dr. John Novak, a neurologist and the Medical Director of the ALS Clinic at OhioHealth says he sees in other athletes.

“90% of patients who get it, it's just sporadic, it starts and we don't know why there are some people who are higher risk for ALS and others, including our military veterans,” Novak said. “It seems to be higher in athletes who have gone through, you know, like multiple head injuries, football players, rugby players, those types.”

Novak says patients with ALS experience loss in muscle and the ability to speak.

“For most people, they know what's going on. They just have a hard time communicating. But it's not because they don't understand it. It's because they physically just can't talk, which is really frustrating place to be,” says Novak.

He says public figures like White have a powerful impact, sharing their fight with the world and bringing attention to an often overlooked community.

To learn more about ALS and how you can donate and help, go to als.org.

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