Bears Rookie Jordan Howard Looks to End Late Father's Disease

He may just be a 22 year-old rookie, but Jordan Howard knows all about the Bears history at his position.

"Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Matt Forte, Thomas Jones," Jordan lists off his predecessors. "It's just a lot of history behind the running back position of the Chicago Bears."

And even if it's painful to think about, Jordan knows all about his family's history as well - including their battle against pulmonary fibrosis, the disease that took his father's life.

"I remember we'd be going places and he'd have his oxygen tank with him and we'd have to slow down so he could catch his breath," Jordan said, reflecting on his father's struggle. "I just remember how much he was suffering."

Dr. Reginald Howard was a successful dentist and devoted family man. But in his mid-40's, his health began to deteriorate and by 2006, his lungs had completely failed him. He passed away from pulmonary fibrosis that year at age 52, when Jordan was just 12 years old.

The sadness Jordan felt then still lingers, as his NFL career takes flight.

"I definitely feel him with me. It's bittersweet he's not here to see it in person, but I know he's watching from up above, so that's good for me too."

With his father in mind, the 5th-round pick spent Wednesday night at an event for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, which is headquartered in Chicago. As his mom Flora watched, Jordan shared how the incurable disease impacted him and spoke one-on-one with others who share a similar story.

"Having Jordan and his mother here are critical," Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation President and CEO Patti Tuomey said. "What we're able to do now is bring a human story to a horrible condition, and that's priceless."

"Being in there with other people who've been through the same things as me and can relate to my story, it just meant a lot that they were there to support me and I inspire them some how. That means a lot to me," Jordan said.

According to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, as many as 40,000 Americans die of pulmonary fibrosis each year.

"From the medical perspective, it affects you with shortness of breath, fatigue and cough," Dr. Greg Cosgrove said of the disease. "But I think it exacts a larger toll, because it affects families."

With the impact the disease has on his family always at the forefront of his mind, Jordan plans to continue shining a light on pulmonary fibrosis.

He'll certainly do that on December 4th, when the NFL will allow players to wear specially-designed cleats supporting a cause that's important to them for the first time.

Jordan's cause is a shoo-in.

"I'm definitely excited. Having pulmonary fibrosis with me - it's near and dear to my heart, and it's near and dear to a lot of other people," Jordan said. "I'm not just doing it for myself, I'm doing it for a lot of other people."

People who, like Jordan, will stop at nothing to wipe out the disease that took his father.

"Not many people know what pulmonary fibrosis is, so I hope to bring a lot of awareness to it and hopefully one day raise enough money for it so we can find a cure," he said.

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