LSU’S Kragth­orpe bat­tles ad­ver­sity

As­sis­tant coach car­ries on de­spite Parkin­son’s diagnosis, wife’s MS

USA TODAY International Edition - - Sports - By Glenn Guil­beau Gan­nett Louisiana

BA­TON ROUGE — Dave Kragth­orpe can tell his son, Steve, all about the tra­vails of the coach­ing life — mov­ing, los­ing, pres­sure and, fi­nally, get­ting fired.

He can­not tell him, though, how to deal with Parkin­son’s disease, which is what LSU of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Steve Kragth­orpe, 46, was di­ag­nosed with last month. Kragth­orpe stepped down from his co­or­di­na­tor and play­call­ing du­ties and will re­main quar­ter­backs coach while he tries to cope with a de­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­der of the ner­vous sys­tem that has no cure.

“ I never had any se­ri­ous health is­sues — just the nor­mal dodg­ing bul­lets with the pub­lic and alumni,” said the el­der Kragth­orpe, 78, who won a Divi­sion I-AA ti­tle at Idaho State in 1981 but was fired at Ore­gon State af­ter six sea­sons in 1990. “ I was very for­tu­nate. Now with Steve’s diagnosis, I’m 78 years old, and I’m the healthy one. It’s very hard to see your child go through some­thing like this. I would cer­tainly trade places with him in a heart­beat if I could.”

In the last 19 months, Steve Kragth­orpe, a for­mer head coach at Tulsa and Louisville, has faced his share of third and longs. He was fired by Louisville af­ter the 2009 sea­son. His wife, Cyn­thia, was di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple sclero­sis, a disease also with­out cure, in 2010 while Kragth­orpe was just start­ing as re­ceivers coach at Texas A& M. When heart com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to the disease arose in his wife, Kragth­orpe took the 2010 sea­son off to be closer to her and his three sons.

“ It was shock­ing for both of them to be di­ag­nosed with such se­ri­ous dis­eases,” Dave Kragth­orpe said. “ He stays in shape. His life is very ac­tive. His wife’s is, too. She still goes to the gym on her good days. What the doc­tors have said to both of them is it’s very good to re­main ac­tive.”

With his wife’s heart con­di­tion im­proved, Kragth­orpe was hired at LSU in Jan­uary, charged with re­ju­ve­nat­ing strug­gling se­nior quar­ter­back Jor­dan Jef­fer­son’s ca­reer. But last month while at a LSU foot­ball camp, Kragth­orpe ex­pe­ri­enced in­vol­un­tary hand and arm shak­ing. He saw a doc­tor in Dal­las and was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s.

The plan is for Kragth­orpe, who now is on med­i­ca­tion, to be at prac­tice daily and con­trib­ute to the game plan. He also will be in the press box for games with newly ap­pointed of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Stu­drawa.

“ Stress can cer­tainly ag­gra­vate the symp­toms,” said Michael Puente, a neu­rol­o­gist in New Or­leans who is not treat­ing Kragth­orpe but is a Parkin­son’s spe­cial­ist.

“ What I tell my pa­tients is . . . they need a good ex­er­cise pro­gram, plenty of rest, a good diet — just a healthy life­style. I do not tell them to stop work­ing.”

Puente said most of his pa­tients get Parkin­son’s in their 60s: “ It’s not a good thing that he has it in his 40s. It gets worse as you get older, but medicine can con­trol it. And there are surgery op­tions.”

When Kragth­orpe called his older brother last month with “ some­thing to tell him,” Kurt Kragth­orpe, a sports colum­nist at The Salt Lake Tri­bune, braced for bad news. But he was not ready for what he heard.

“ I au­to­mat­i­cally thought it would be about Cyn­thia be­cause I looked at the calendar, and it was al­most the ex­act same date that he left Texas A& M,” Kurt said. “ And I thought, ‘ It’s hap­pen­ing again.’ Then to find out that it in­volved him was just mind­bog­gling. He’s never had any type of ill­ness that was ab­nor­mal. . . . Just when Cyn­thia is get­ting bet­ter, this hap­pens.”

Some­thing else shocked Kurt Kragth­orpe, 50 — his lit­tle brother’s de­liv­ery.

“ That was part of how star­tling it was,” he said. “ It was like he was telling­me­what he had for lunch that day. And one of the first things he said was, ‘ I’ve got to keep coach­ing be­cause of Jor­dan Jef­fer­son.’ ”

So far through pre­sea­son prac­tice, Kragth­orpe has ap­peared fine.

“ He’s nor­mal,” Jef­fer­son said. “ The only thing dif­fer­ent is he shakes a lit­tle bit. He told us that he was tak­ing med­i­ca­tion, and ev­ery­thing should be good within a few weeks. He’s good. He still walks, still jogs, still throws.”

There might have to be days off or missed games down the road, which is why head coach Les Miles pro­moted Stu­drawa so the No. 4 Tigers will have “ un­in­ter­rupted lead­er­ship” of the of­fense.

No one in the fam­ily asked Kragth­orpe to stop coach­ing, ac­cord­ing to brother and fa­ther.

“ He wants to coach as long as he can,” his fa­ther said. “ His plan is to try to get through this year and then think about next year.”

By Travis Spradling, The Ba­ton Rouge Ad­vo­cate via AP

Re­duced role: Steve Kragth­orpe, right, gave up his play-call­ing du­ties and in­stead will work with quar­ter­backs such as Zach Met­ten­berger.

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