Strong bonds defined Ron Springs

CARROLLTON, Texas -- The story of Ron Springs' life is one of inspiration.

How could it not be?

Springs, 54, died last Thursday in Dallas from a heart attack after being in a coma for nearly four years.

The old folks used to say that when someone passes, they're going to glory or going home. Springs went home last week, and his former teammates and friends paid homage to a fullback many could consider the ultimate Cowboys team player Thursday afternoon.

Gray skies lingered outside the Covenant Church, but inside there was nothing but warmth and sunshine. Stories were told about a man who was given a new chance at life by his best friend, but also a man who gave so much to many people.

"It's an example for all of us that deep down in our hearts, we are decent human beings," said Roger Staubach, who spoke at Springs' funeral service.

In the spring of 2007, Springs received a kidney from his best friend and former Cowboys teammate Everson Walls. The gift Walls gave to Springs showed the power of true friendship. But months after getting the transplant, Springs needed a cyst removed from his elbow. It was considered a routine surgery, but things went awry. Springs slipped into a coma, and the family waited years for him to recover.

Instead, Springs is gone. But he is not forgotten.

"I prayed the Lord would have me hear him speak one more time," said the man Springs blocked for, Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett.

The two pastors who spoke about Springs' life, Gordon Banks and Angelo King, are former Cowboys' players. Banks wanted people to know Springs is in a better place, that his spirit is with God.

Springs didn't see color. He saw friends. He saw teammates. He saw people he bonded with.

"You really didn't have a choice but being friends with my dad," said Springs' son Shawn, who has played for three NFL teams. "He would talk to everybody."

Staubach said that after rallying to win a game against the Washington Redskins, he jumped into Springs' arms. It was one of the rare times Staubach showed emotion.

"I guess it bonded us," Staubach said.

When Springs would go to the hospital for checkups while he was battling diabetes, he knew all the nurses and doctors.

The people who knew Springs best said he never complained about his condition. Never complained about anything.

Not even as a player. He backed up Dorsett, and while there might have been younger players who wanted to take Springs' spot, he embraced them.

King, a linebacker who played for the Cowboys from 1981 to '83, remembers being scared about joining the team. He wasn't sure whether the rookies were supposed to speak with the veterans.

Springs walked over to the rookies and encouraged them to make the team. He told them to work hard on special teams to catch the coaches' eye. To make sure assignments were known every day so nobody could say a negative thing about you.

It was Springs' way of showing how much he cared.

Even at Ohio State, he welcomed people. Doug Donley remembered how Springs would say hello to his parents after every game.

"Ron respected you and cared about you," Donley said.

At Springs' farewell, they talked about his love for clothes and artwork and how he talked trash. Shawn Springs said his dad was the first metrosexual he ever met.

Now Ron Springs is gone. In the hearts of many of his family and friends, he will never be forgotten.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.