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Denzel and Braylon

Story ID:3123
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Cleveland Ohio USA
Year:2007
Person:Denzel Douglas
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Looking at my title you may think I am going to write about Denzel Washington
and Brayon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns. If so, you would be right re the last
name but the first is not Denzel Washington. No, this Denzel is Denzel Douglas --
a young black youth who had aspirations to play football, but a bad heart prevented
him. He wanted all the thrills and glory associated with playing football in the big
leagues -- even being written about someday in Sports Illustrated. Well, he got his
last wish though in a manner he never anticipated or expected.

At 14, Denzel came down with what seemed just a cold. How often have we heard
that - just a cold? But an EKG showed an infection which ruined his heart. He
now had congestive heart failure. His heart was so bad that he received a trans-
planted heart 18 months ago. Someone made the agonizing decision to donate
the heart of a loved one which would be placed in someone they didn't even know.
However, those 18 months were a blessing to Denzel's mother as they would have
been to any mother of their seriously ill child.

Denzel had loved just about every sport-- but football was his favorite. His transplanted
heart made playing football an impossiblilty. However, he was allowed to go out for
basketball. And he was good. He made the varsity team at Lakewood High School.
But now he would only be able to watch football from the family couch -- cheering on his
favorite Browns' player, Braylon Edwards.

A few weeks ago Denzel began having stomach pains. Sadly, his body was rejecting
his new heart. He went back on the transplant list, but he became so ill that soon
he was back in the hospital. His cousin realized that if anything would cheer him up - it
would be having his idol - Braylon Edwards visit him. She contacted the Cleveland
Browns.

Braylon came to the Cleveland Clinic to visit a stranger but one who was an adoring
fan. He was clearly moved as he held the boy's hand. Though Denzel couldn't move
or speak, he looked at Braylon, closed his eyes and looked again. Yes, it was no
dream -- it was his idol, Braylon Edwards.

Braylon gave Denzel a game ball and a signed jersey. He dedicated the game to him
promising him a touchdown. It reminded me of the Babe who promised a very ill lad that
he would hit a homer for him. I believe that the Babe came through on his promise.
I'm not sure about Braylon, though for the past two games he has been playing very
good football.

On Friday (Nov.2,2007) they buried Denzel in the No.17 jersey Braylon signed. They
also placed the autographed football in the coffin next to him. His fellow Lakewood High
basketball players carried Denzel to and from the Second Calvary Baptist Church for
his final rest. Braylon paid for his fan's funeral. As writer Regina Brett of the Cleveland
Plain dealter noted "To a rich athlete, that's no hit to the wallet, but it's a giant gesture
to a family already suffering so much loss. People called Braylon Edwards a hero, not
for his catches and touchdowns, but because he made his most sensational play off the
field. He gave a kid his dying wish."

Denzel also got a piece of his dream. His story was carried on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated
and in newspapers across the country. And I loved Regina Brett's final words in her PD
article re Denzel:
"He made an NFL wide receiver cry. He made a 6-foot-3, 212 pound wall of steel crumble.
He made every Browns player remember why the fans matter, especially the weak and
vulnerable who look up to them for strength."