Aug 23 2017
As a kid growing up in Arkansas, there was nothing more popular than the Razorbacks. Coach Frank Broyles was largely responsible for that phenomenon. During his tenure, Coach Broyles led the Razorbacks to seven Southwest Conference titles and a Football Writer’s Association of America National Championship.
In the decades that followed, the love for the Razorbacks continued and so did the passion and dedication of Coach Broyles to the football program, the university and the state of Arkansas. We lost a real treasure with his recent passing.
Outside of family, the people who had the greatest influences on my life were my coaches and teachers. Perhaps none more so than Frank Broyles. He made a tremendous mark on the lives of so many student athletes, like myself, during his years as a coach, athletic director and all-around ambassador for the University of Arkansas and our state.
While he’s most recognizable in Arkansas for his service and dedication to Razorback athletics, he used his notoriety for an important mission that extends beyond the borders of our state—the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.
Coach Broyles made it his life’s work to advocate for a cure and to educate Americans on caring for loved ones suffering with Alzheimer’s after his wife Barbara was diagnosed with the disease. After years of caring for her, Barbara lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in 2004.
For nearly two decades, Coach Broyles helped families touched by Alzheimer’s and passionately advocated for finding a cure.
While Coach Broyles faced his wife’s diagnosis much like he did an opponent on the football field—with preparation and strategy—his family found that there were limited resources available to caregivers looking for help. That’s one of the reasons they created the Broyles Foundation and were inspired to share what they had learned in caring for Barbara to help other caregivers. The book—Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers—has been translated into 11 languages and distributed across the country.
In 2005, I welcomed Coach Broyles to Washington as he encouraged lawmakers to be passionate about Alzheimer’s so we can find a cure. He told members of the Health Subcommittee of the House Policy Committee that they all have compassion, but they needed to turn that compassion into passion to make a difference. By sharing his story with Congress, Coach Broyles helped shine a light on the struggles families undergo while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, pushed policymakers to support programs that can help families in this situation and advocated for a cure for this devastating disease.
Coach’s personal experience, his family’s role as caregivers and the impact Barbara’s death had on his life helped raise awareness and secure increased funding to develop a cure. In more than a decade since he began his advocacy, there has been great progress, but there is more work to be done to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease.
He brought the same energy in the fight to cure Alzheimer’s that he brought to football. Coach Broyles’ efforts on and off the field certainly made a lasting impact. He was fond of saying there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. Live your life as a giver, not a taker. We lost a giver, but we are so much better for what he gave us.