Connective Issues - Winter 2020

On an early fall day in 2011, Allen Tucker was living his dream. After a successful high school football career, Allen earned an opportunity to line up as a defensive lineman for the Mississippi State Bulldogs as a freshman. At 6’4” with quick feet and long limbs, 18-year-old Allen looked uniquely built for his position. Then there was a situation where he couldn’t catch his breath. And then there was another. Eventually, at his mother’s urging, he sought testing. Later that fall, Allen was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and his time as a football player was over. It seemed that, without playing football, Allen’s story read like a loss with a sad ending. “Immediately my thought was, what am I going to do now? My whole life was football,” said Allen. “Getting to play at Mississippi State was my dream. I had no plan for after that.” It turns out that Allen’s story wasn’t over when he turned in his football pads. “In the same instant that Marfan crushed the only dreams I ever had, it created a new dream that I am currently living out today,” he said. Allen's father, Larry Tucker, passed away in 1994, from complications related to Marfan syndrome. Allen was just SUDDEN CHANGE SITUATIONS ALLEN TUCKER

a year old. Though he carried some of the tell-tale signs of Marfan, none presented so strongly that it occurred to his family to have him tested. He became a celebrated high school athlete with promise as a defensive lineman. “It seemed like my height and build just made me a good match for football. Never did we think I had Marfan,” said Allen. People with rare conditions often feel the need to mature quickly in the face of a potentially life-threatening condition. Allen felt this personally and professionally, first as a newly-diagnosed young adult and, second, as he embarked on what was to come after playing football. Said Allen, “I had to decide that my life was way more important than the game. As obvious as that sounds, I “I had to decide that my life was way more important than the game. As obvious as that sounds, I didn’t yet know how to live with my diagnosis or without football.”


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