Neiron Ball is the former Florida Gators and Oakland Raiders outside linebacker who died at the age of 27, eight years after being diagnosed with the condition, Arteriovenous malformation. Ball’s sad passing on September 9 was confirmed in a tragic Facebook post from his sister, Natalie Ball Myricks. Myricks wrote, “We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Neiron Ball on September 9, 2019, at 4:15 am. The Ball family is forever grateful for the prayers, donations, and immense support of Neiron and his recovery. Neiron was a very special and loving father, brother, and teammate. Neiron has transitioned to a place of peace.”
In 2011, while playing for the Florida Gators, Ball was diagnosed with the condition, which causes the brain’s blood vessels to get tangled and rupture. Ball told the Oakland Raiders website in 2016 that he went to the medical staff at the school after he had trouble maintaining his balance. Ball said doctors told him that blood had trickled down to his spine as a result of the rupture.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ball Had Been in a Medically Induced Coma Since September 2018
Ball was placed in a medically induced coma in September 2018 at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after he suffered a brain aneurysm. His family said in a July 2019 statement that although Ball had woken from the coma, he was now a quadriplegic. His family launched a GoFundMe page to help to pay for his medical care in July 2019. At the time of writing, that page has raised $136,000.
The original goal of the page was $100,000. The biography on the page noted that Ball was being cared for by his sister, Natalie Myricks and his great aunt. Around the time that the page was launched, Ball’s sister told WCJB, “He’s a two to three thousand dollar a day patient. and so the insurance will only pay for skilled nursing facilities which is basically…he won’t get any rehab there. he would just lay up, develop bedsores and deteriorate.” Myricks added that she was “shocked” by the amazing response from University of Florida fans and alumni.
She added that the page’s original goal was met in a day. Myricks’ husband, Dary, added, “Well he’s a fighter. that’s one thing we tried to make clear.there are a lot of different opinions about our situation and it’s real simple for us. as long as he’s fighting we’re fighting.” Ball’s family also said that they were asking fans to write letters to the linebacker so that they could read to him at his bedside.
2. Ball’s First College Career Sack Was on Jameis Winston
Ball was a native of Jackson, Georgia, at town of more than 5,000, located around 50 miles southeast of Atlanta. He attended Jackson High School in town and was regarded as one of the top linebacking prospects in the country, according to his official Gators profile.
During his time in high school, Ball had more than 100 tackles in his junior year and could run a 100-meter dash in 11.19. Ball was also measured at high jumping 5-foot-8.
Following his high school graduation, Ball opted to play for the University of Florida, choosing the Gators over Louisiana State University, Clemson and Alabama. While at the University of Florida, Ball recorded the first sack in 2013 at the expense of future Heisman winner Jameis Winston.
3. Ball Was Drafted in the 5th Round by the Raiders in 2015
During his first season, Ball sacked the Cleveland Browns’ Josh McCown. Ball told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It felt really good. My eyes got really big when I saw it coming, And then when it happened, I knew I had to celebrate, gotta make it cool. That’s what you do when you are dripping in sauce.” As noted in the Chronicle article, the Urban Dictionary defines “Sauce” as, “Sauce is used to describe someone who has a style, confidence and attraction about them. Usually, someone who is well-dressed, fashionable, and has an aura about them.”
4. Ball Lost Both of His Parents Before He Was 10 Years of Age
In his 2016 Raiders documentary, Ball said that over three years span, he lost both of his parents, Johanna and Ronnie Ball. Ball told ESPN in 2015 that his mother, who had been battling cancer, suffered a heart attack on Mother’s Day when he was six years old. When he was nine, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away shortly after the diagnosis due to a seizure.
From that point, Ball told ESPN that Dary Myricks, his sister’s husband, became a father figure to him. Myricks told the network, “When Neiron had his brain surgery, it was so tough to see. This is a kid who has gone through a lot in life — a lot. He’s seen so much death. … For him to be dealing with an uncertain future, it was just so hard to watch.” Ball told the Gators’ website that he was also raised by his grandmother, Josephine White.
Ball said of his grandmother in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015, “She made sure I never gave up, worked hard and gave me all the values to help me get where I am today. What happened to my parents was a terrible thing that I had no control of, but I had control of a lot still.”
Ball’s brother, Neland, was also slated to be a football star after receiving a scholarship to the University of Georgia. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended his career before it got started.
5. AVM Is Usually Present From Birth
Arteriovenous malformation or AVM is usually present from birth, according to the Mayo Clinic. The symptoms of the condition includes bleeding, progressive loss of neurological function, headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, weak muscles, paralysis in one part of the body among others. The Mayo Clinic website says that children and teenagers who have the condition may have trouble learning. The page adds that AVM is usually diagnosed by accident during a CT scan or an MRI.
The American Stroke Association website says that, “More than 50% of patients with an AVM have an intracranial hemorrhage.”