Alzheimer's affects many each year, and Tulsa football head coach Philip Montgomery knows that because he's dealing with the disease in his family.
“Team Sandra Jean is named after my mom, such a special lady, been a huge part of my life,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery says he’s seen first-hand how Alzheimer’s affected his grandmother and now his mother.
“The things that she’s going through right now, obviously, I’ve seen it with my grandmother,” he recalled. “Just the look in her eyes, you know, she’s still happy, she’s still healthy, but there’s times where you can just see that she should know me but doesn’t. You know, that hurts, but she’s still my mama.”
Montgomery says the hardest part about dealing so closely with the disease is that there’s no way to help.
“There’s nothing really that you can do besides try to comfort and make everything as good as you can for them, because right now, it’s a disease that’s a killer,” he explained. “So, we’re just battling through it and trying to stay as positive as we can.”
Despite there not being a cure for Alzheimer’s, Montgomery is hopeful that one day there will be.
“Hopefully this awareness is gonna, at some point, create enough stir to it that, you know, we get us a cure for this,” he stated.
Staying involved with Alzheimer’s funding and research and spreading awareness are things both Montgomery and his wife Ashli do actively. And their heavy involvement all started with an Alz walk.
“They had a walk there in Waco, and we kind of started getting involved in the Alzheimer’s Association there,” he said. “As we came up to Tulsa, come to find out, you know, I don’t think Ashli was here less than a month before she started working with the board here and [noticed] how active the people of Tulsa were as far as for fundraising and creating awareness for this disease. And so, it really, it hit us at the right time.”
Montgomery says creating awareness for the disease that’s touched home gave he and his wife an outlet in attempts to help.
“Instead of just sitting back and saying, ‘You know, she’s got this disease; we can’t do anything for her, [so] we’re just gonna love on her.’ We’re still gonna do all those things, but at least this way, we feel like we’re trying to battle it in our own special way.”
The Golden Hurricane coach's “family is number one” mentality carries over when he talks to his players on and off the field.
“It’s always gonna be number one,” he stated. “Relationships that you build while you’re in college, relationships with your family, [we’re] trying to teach our players to be good husbands, and good fathers and good leaders of society. All of that involves family."
And to Montgomery, family is important for numerous reasons.
"We don’t know what each other are going through all the time. You know, there’s struggles that we each fight daily that we kind of keep bottled up inside of us. And you’re supposed to be able to share that with your family, and those people are supposed to be able to support you while you’re going through that," he stated. "So for us, my football family here supports us in that sense but so does my interior family with my wife and kids. And for us, it’s all one big happy family.”
And although he’s a Texas native, Montgomery has nothing but good things to say about the people of Oklahoma and how they’ve come together to help bring more awareness to Alzheimer’s.
“The people of Tulsa and the people of Oklahoma [are] very giving people, people that will stand up and help you in times of need,” he said. “This is a bigger problem than just right here in the state. It’s national. It’s worldwide. So, the awareness that we can bring, the money that we can raise for research to find a cure for this, those things are near and dear to a lot of people’s heart. When we talk about over 60,000 people here in Oklahoma, we’re talking about people that have the disease. You know, when you start talking about all the caregivers and all the other people and families its affecting, that number dramatically increases. So, we’re all gonna be touched by this at some point if we don’t get something done with it now.”
The 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. October 22 at Guthrie Green. To register for the walk or donate visit the following link: 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer's - Tulsa