Former Florida linebacker Neiron Ball dies at 27

By Adam Silverstein
September 10, 2019
Former Florida linebacker Neiron Ball dies at 27

Image Credit: UAA

One year after being admitted to a hospital in Atlanta following a ruptured brain aneurysm, former Florida Gators and Oakland Raiders linebacker Neiron Ball died Monday morning, his family confirms. He was 27.

“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,” his sister and caregiver, Natalie Ball Myricks, wrote on Facebook.

Ball, a fan favorite for the immense effort and passion with which he played the game and lived his life, was diagnosed while at Florida with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare, congenital condition in which blood vessels in the brain rupture due to being tangled. Following his incident in September 2018, he was placed in a medically-induced coma and became a paraplegic.

Myricks created a GoFundMe page in July with a modest goal of $50,000 to pay for Ball to moved from a nursing home into a rehabilitation facility so he could obtain aggressive neurotherapy. The goal was quickly met and doubled to $100,000; she ultimately raised nearly $137,000 for her brother with Gators and Raiders teammates and fans contributing heavily to the effort.

“Neiron is currently fighting for his life. Unfortunately, his health insurance does not cover the appropriate care necessary to give him the best chance of recovery,” Myricks wrote on the GoFundMe page when it launched. “With the appropriate neurological and rehabilitative care, Neiron will be given the fighting chance he deserves.”

By all accounts, Myricks had raised enough money to get Ball the proper care he needed, and the NFL Players’ Association was planning to help as well.

While playing for the Gators during Will Muschamp’s tenure after joining the program as a member of Urban Meyer’s final recruiting class, Ball suffered a medical incident in his dorm. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors discovered that his brain was bleeding. He underwent emergency surgery and sat out the 2011 season. Despite being given a 50-50 chance of playing again, Ball’s recovery went well and he was medically cleared to resume playing football the following year.

“I always knew it was going to happen,” Ball said at the time. “I knew that I was going to be able to play again. It was frustrating at some points. It makes me want to take advantage of this second opportunity that I got. I’m just thankful. I’m going to go hard and go all out and know that God has my back.”

Ball ultimately went on to have a stellar career for Florida, and after another setback — microfracture knee surgery following his senior season — was selected by the Raiders in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played six games for Oakland that season before a knee injury forced the Raiders to place him on injured reserve. He was eventually waived with a non-football injury designation, believed to be due to his AVM, and he did not play again.

Former Gators offensive lineman Trent Brown, who played for the New England Patriots in 2018, dedicated his Super Bowl LIII victory to Ball (a.k.a. “Weezy”), his best friend. Brown was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers the same year Ball was selected by the Raiders, which allowed the close friends to be near one another as NFL rookies in an unfamiliar state.

In the offseason, Brown signed with the Raiders and promised to continue what Ball started with the team.

Ball was cared for by his sister as his parents both died at a young age. His birth was considered a “miracle” by his family as his mother was undergoing chemotherapy treatment when she learned of her pregnancy and stopped it in order to deliver the child. Ball’s grandmother and other family members raised him and his siblings, but she died in the last few years. Ball turned 27 on Aug. 20.

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