For Texans quarterback David Carr, being knocked to the ground has become somewhat of a badge of honor.
In his first three NFL seasons, Carr endured more punishment that perhaps any other signal-caller in the league, getting sacked a whopping 140 times and forging a reputation as one tough hombre in the process.
However, not even a blind-side hit from the likes of Ray Lewis could prepare him for the devastating blow he suffered earlier this year when his eldest son, Austin, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
The discovery of Austin's potentially life-threatening illness shook the Carr family to the core, testing their strength, resolve and faith.
"We were shocked at first, like I think any parents would be," said Carr, who with his wife Melody are the parents of two other sons, Tyler and Cooper. "But then after that, we sat back and realized that we could either be upset about it, ask why, and blame God, or we could kind of take it as a positive and try to help other families who are dealing with the same thing."
In their search for answers, the Carr family learned that the form of diabetes that five-year-old Austin had, Type I, strikes over 30,000 Americans each year and was especially common among children. Type I Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces an insufficient amount of insulin, which the body needs to turn food into energy and move glucose from the bloodstream into body cells.
Determined not to remain grief-stricken, Carr duplicated what he has done on the football field countless times before. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and staggered his way back to the huddle, ready to regroup.
Soon afterwards, Carr and his family joined the frontlines in the fight to cure juvenile diabetes.
"We want to raise awareness, raise money; do whatever we can to eliminate this disease," said Carr, who wears a red wristband each game to pay tribute to his son's struggle. "We haven't started a foundation yet but we're looking at doing that in the near future. We just want to jump in and, if I have to speak somewhere or talk to a group of kids, I'll do it."
Today, David and Melody Carr both work closely to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), investing their time and energy to raise awareness. They regularly participate in fundraising events like the "Walk to Cure Diabetes" and have recently shot a series of national public service announcements that will air later this fall.
In addition, Carr plans to be a regular visitor at Camp Rainbow, a day camp created for children who suffer from his son's same illness.
"This is a camp where kids who have juvenile diabetes can hang with other kids that have it and can see someone just like themselves," he said. "That's something that we're also trying to be apart of."
Following the Carr family's lead, the Houston Texans recently made the JDRL one of it's top five charitable organizations. Over the next three years the Texans pledge to donate $75,000 to juvenile diabetes research.
"David Carr is a dad first and a football player second," said Kathy Knotts, executive director of the Houston Gulf Coast chapter of the JRDL. "Within weeks of Austin's diagnosis, he held a press conference to support his son and bring attention to the need for more juvenile diabetes research. It was overwhelming."
As for the younger Carr's current health status, it seems that Austin possesses the same toughness and courage that his father embodies each Sunday. Since his initially diagnosis, Austin's condition has steadily improved. However, he still has to take a pair of insulin shots each day and his glucose levels are closely monitored.
"He's doing good," Carr said. "Austin is back to his normal self again.
"For a while, like all kids when they're first diagnosed, he was tired and lethargic. But once he started getting insulin and got his blood sugar level stable again, he felt great just like a normal five-year-old."
For more information on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation please visit www.jrdf.org