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Old 12-31-2013   #1
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Default Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

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The car is parked. His wife waits in the back seat, nervous but excited. His 14-month-old son is strapped into a child's seat, hands twirling away.

Brian Cushing pauses and waits. The Texans linebacker then slowly picks up his head and stares at a small, broken-down house in southeast Houston.
"Oh, babe," Cushing says to his wife, Megan. "Look at this. Oh, wow."

A woman walks through the front door. She has no idea who's waiting outside. She doesn't know what's about to happen or why what began as just another dragged-out Thursday during another cruel year will turn into two hours that at least temporarily will change her life completely.

But Evelyn Smith needs Brian Cushing. And Brian Cushing needs Evelyn Smith.

Their separated lives are about to connect. When the convergence is over, all of Smith's hurt and pain and the lack of almost everything will have been wrapped in an early Christmas.

A $1,000 gift card for groceries, two $250 cards for bus rides. January through March rent taken care of, a three-month past-due gas bill paid off and so many new gifts placed near a once-barren, badly leaning plastic tree that Smith's tiny living room will run out of space.

When Cushing and his family drive back to their safe, near-perfect world, a 26-year-old man whose life is no longer solely being defined by the game of football will have discovered what he began looking for after his powerful body failed him again.

"It's incredible," Cushing says. "Because you see a family that's struggling and doesn't know what to do for Christmas. You bring them stuff that they couldn't even dream of really having. To bring it in and give them all that and to see the looks on their faces is priceless.
To bring it in and give them all that and to see the looks on their faces is priceless.

"They can really just enjoy an incredible day and just be stress-free for a little bit. That's important: To get that burden off them and just let them enjoy their lives for a little bit."

Gifts aplenty

Smith is shaking. This doesn't happen to anyone. It definitely doesn't happen to her.

But, somehow, it is. So she lets go of the life and the world that have let her down, finds her best natural smile and warmly welcomes in complete strangers.

"Hi. How you doing?" says Smith, inviting in a family led by a 6-foot-3, 249-pound man who signed a six-year contract extension for $55.6 million less than four months ago.

The Cushings and a small group of Texans employees gradually make their way into a darkened, cramped house. There's a tiny kitchen. A narrow, darker hallway. An old television topped by a youth football trophy. Two walls lined with tilted pictures, including a graduation photo and a family prayer.

Two other walls barely decorated, but featuring stock images normally found inside office buildings or a doctor's waiting room: a jagged cliff with "Risk" printed above and "Give every challenge your best shot" below; on the opposing wall, "Determination" and an idyllic picture of a clean fairway green and a faraway mountain.

Smith picks up her cellphone. The call is brief.

"Um, one of the Texans' players, Brian Cushing, is at my house," she says. "Gotta go."

Soon, presents are piling in. An in-the-box high-definition television. Stacks of new shoes, clothes and DVDs.

A PS3 for Smith's 8-year-old son, Darius. A 21-piece teether set for Smith's 9-month granddaughter, Siyah. Piles of food line a back table. Laughter and warmth color the living room. Together, it's hope, recognition, possibility.

All the things Smith canceled out when her back went bad and her job went away. Everything the holidays are supposed to reinforce but Smith privately knew were going to be coldly missing on Christmas Day before the Cushings arrived last Thursday.

"It's the greatest thing ever because I didn't know what my kids were going to get for Christmas," Smith says. "I didn't even know what I was going to have for Christmas dinner."

'Very scared'

She worked 18 years as a nurse. She'd work again if she had a new job. But her bad back is only getting worse - one surgery is supposed to be followed by a second - and Smith hasn't met anyone who's been better after their back has been opened. She also can't forget what happened to the woman who brought her into the world.

"My mom had back surgery, and she never got out of the wheelchair until she passed away," Smith said. "I'm very scared, because I have to take care of my son and my grandbaby."

Five children and a granddaughter live inside the house. The father has disappeared, Smith says. Her oldest daughter, 26-year-old Savannah Wesley, dropped out of high school during her senior year, when her mother was injured during a fall. Wesley initially did the work Smith no longer could. Then the oldest daughter of the family joined the mother in frustration and pain after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2010.
"It's a struggle. … But as a family, a unit, we're trying," said Wesley, who's unemployed but actively seeking work. "We try. But we try not to talk about it, because we don't want the sadness to outnumber the positive that could come out of it."

Darius has a learning disability that stems from being born two weeks late. Wesley's cancer was in remission but recently returned and moved to her kidneys.

Smith holds on to an idea of working from home, but she's not sure if her back will let her do anything for extended periods. The $771 a month she receives in combined disability and child-support payments barely meets the family's rent.

Smith is holding on. But she's still slipping away.

"I'm not giving up," she said. "I think God is going to find a way. And he did bless me with Brian."
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/spor...5091572.php#/0
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Old 12-31-2013   #2
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

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Bruised and beaten

No one has blessed Cushing on the football field. At least not when it's truly mattered.

The raging modern warrior - running eye-black, overstuffed arms, guttural growls - has been disposable and discarded in back-to-back heartbreaking seasons. In 2012, Cushing was forced to watch the best year in franchise history from afar, after he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Week 5. He rehabbed like mad, vowing to be more beast-like and a fiercer animal when he returned. In 2013, Cushing was forced to watch the worst season in franchise history with glazed eyes after breaking his left fibula and tearing his lateral collateral ligament in Week 7 at Kansas City.

He called Megan from the Texans' training room after wasted knee No. 2. The initial conversation felt worse than the injury.

"Oh my God," she said. "The first time around, I was hysterical. The second time around, I saw it happen, and I knew. And I just thought to myself, he told me, 'I rehabbed that whole time with the ACL and if I tear my ACL again, I don't think I can honestly go through the whole thing again.' I was hysterical. But he'll be back and he's so determined."

This time, it was only Cushing's LCL and he's eyeing an early 2014 green light. During the interim, the soon-to-be father of two - Megan's eight weeks pregnant with the couple's second child - is making up for the years when his entire life was devoted to a sport. He's become more of a husband, more of a father and more of a man.

"It's a completely different world and aspect as a football player and as a person, because there's so much more to my life than playing football," Cushing said. "It's been huge. And it's just opened my eyes up to the many more things that are out there."
Temporary reprieve

Five hours after her Dec. 19 surprise Christmas, Smith was heading to the store. She had money to buy groceries. She had a house filled with warmth and light that would stay hot and lit. She'd been given a breather. But she also knew the Cushings' open hand was only a temporary reprieve.

"It's still going to be a challenge," Smith said.

A few hours after loading up Smith's house, smiling for endless pictures and watching Darius ride his new bicycle while wearing a bright-red No. 56 jersey, Cushing stood outside his car as Reliant Stadium towered above. Texans players walked by, heading toward flashy vehicles after another long practice day during a lost season. Cushing was barely noticed. But he kept speaking and finding new meaning.

"I'm going to make the most out of this opportunity," Cushing said. "I'm not going to let it slip by and waste this time. I'm going to capitalize on it."

Then it was back to dad duties.

Cushing already had changed Cayden's diaper in the middle of delivering presents. While his wife reflected on a Christmas the couple would remember the rest of their lives, Cushing fully disappeared, briefly removing himself from the Texans, the NFL and everything that had allowed him to light up a stranger's world.

"Honestly, I would say this is one of the top three days of my life," Megan said.
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/spor...5091572.php#/0
****
This is one of those Chronicle articles that's a little tough to access, so I took the liberty of posting it in its entirety.
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Old 12-31-2013   #3
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

Heartwarming. Thanks for posting.
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Old 12-31-2013   #4
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas



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"I'm going to make the most out of this opportunity," Cushing said. "I'm not going to let it slip by and waste this time. I'm going to capitalize on it."
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"Honestly, I would say this is one of the top three days of my life," Megan said.
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Old 01-02-2014   #5
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

During the interim, the soon-to-be father of two - Megan's eight weeks pregnant with the couple's second child - is making up for the years when his entire life was devoted to a sport.
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A Daddy again, Cush has been a "busy" boy during his rehab.
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Old 01-02-2014   #6
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

I find it humorous that in that picture Brian looks pregnant again. I'm sure he'll get in shape and all that; it's just that dude is always either super impressive or pregnant looking, LOL.
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Old 01-02-2014   #7
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

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Originally Posted by HJam72 View Post
I find it humorous that in that picture Brian looks pregnant again. I'm sure he'll get in shape and all that; it's just that dude is always either super impressive or pregnant looking, LOL.
Lol I guess. But he is holding a kid on his hip. That requires a little bit of sticking your gut out.
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Old 01-02-2014   #8
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Default Re: Brian Cushing & Wife play Santa on Christmas

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I find it humorous that in that picture Brian looks pregnant again. I'm sure he'll get in shape and all that; it's just that dude is always either super impressive or pregnant looking, LOL.
That does not look like a soft roll of jelly-fat. It looks like those hard, convex muscular cores that protrude out if you will. Not saying he hasn't put on weight (gosh, I would gain 20 pounds after that kind of injury)but I don't think that is a fatty gut we're lookin at.
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