The latter years of Springs’ life were punctuated when his former Cowboys teammate and best friend Everson Walls donated his kidney to save his life. The two started a foundation that touched the lives of many, and they even wrote a book about their journey.
“I got text from a woman who donated a kidney because of our story,” Walls said Thursday night in confirming Springs’ death. “There are a lot of people connected to this, sometimes you just don’t realize it. Ron touched a lot of people’s lives.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement: “Ron’s life will always be remembered by the joy and laughter that he brought to others and the courage and toughness he displayed until the end. Regardless of the circumstances, he always had a smile for everyone. The Dallas Cowboys have lost a wonderful member of our family, and we share our thoughts and prayers with his family.”
In 2004, Springs needed a kidney and refused to take one from his son, NFL player Shawn Springs, because it would have ended his playing career. While still on the national transplant list, Springs received one from Walls in March 2006.
Springs had suffered from diabetes for 20 years, a disease that not only caused his kidney failure but also led to the amputation of his right foot and the big and middle toes on his left foot and caused his hands to curl into knots.
He also was forced into a wheelchair and needed dialysis three times a week before receiving the transplant.
But after going in for what was expected to be routine surgery on his elbow, Springs slipped into a coma.
“My husband was doing so well after the kidney transplant,” said Adriane Springs, Ron’s wife, a few years ago. “This is just a very tragic outcome.”
Adriane Springs said at the time she did not think her 51-year-old husband would recover. He was able to open his eyes and breathe on his own, but there was little movement.
The Springs family filed a medical malpractice suit in January 2008 against two doctors who Adriane Springs says caused brain damage during a routine surgery. The suit, which names Dr. Joyce Abraham, Dr. David Godat and the Texas Anesthesia Group, did not specify damages.
Ron Springs attended Coffeyville Community College in Kansas before transferring to Ohio State, where he played three seasons (1976-78) for coach Woody Hayes, becoming a captain his senior year.
Springs was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of Ohio State in 1979 and became a starter alongside Tony Dorsett in ’81, the year Walls arrived as an undrafted rookie from Grambling. Springs left in 1985, finishing his career with two seasons in Tampa Bay.
Springs ran for 2,519 yards, had 2,259 yards receiving and scored 10 touchdowns in his NFL career.
In the four seasons Springs and Walls played together in Dallas, the two forged a strong friendship. Springs is the godfather of Walls’ oldest daughter, and Walls received the same honor for Springs’ youngest child.
Springs is survived by his wife, Adriane; son, Shawn; and daughters Ayra and Ashley. Shawn Springs was a cornerback for Ohio State in the 1990s and is an NFL free agent who played last season for the New England Patriots.
“[Adriane] never gave up hope,” Walls said. “She wanted him to be in a better place and she wanted him to be in her arms. She was a spiritual person and knows he is in a better place now.”
Walls and Springs formed the Gift for Life Foundation, which aims to educate people about ways to prevent chronic kidney disease and dispel myths about the living donor process.
Funeral arrangements are pending.