Yes I Can! Yes You Can!
Jay Leeuwenburg started more than 120 games and lined up against eventual Hall of Famers Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor and many other fearsome opponents during a nine-year career in the National Football League.
But first he met Type 1 diabetes head-on.
Diagnosed just days after his 12th birthday, Jay quickly accepted responsibility for managing his disease. Testing his parents' patience and his doctors' knowledge, Jay pushed ahead with every imaginable athletic and competitive interest.
"Not participating would have been like saying, 'Don't breathe,' " he says.
He almost lost a foot to infection his senior year in high school, but persevered to become a first-team all-state football player and a qualifier for the state wrestling tournament - in his first and only attempt at the sport. He then played on the greatest teams in the history of University of Colorado football, and became a unanimous All-American center.
Despite his collegiate strdom, National Football League teams passed on him until the 9th round of the 1992 college draft. "My goal immediately became to play the number of years in the NFL for the round in which I was drafted," he says.
Overcoming the ignorance about diabetes that he found throughout pro football, Jay not only accomplished his goal but also started at every interior line position, a distinction few NFL linemen share. Through it all he learned so much about his disease that he became, in his doctor's coined description, a "diabetologist."
Bothered by the absence of diabetic athletes as positive examples during his own childhood, Jay decided that his stardom presented both an opportunity and a responsibility: to become a role model for other diabetics, especially children.
Jay's determined refusal to let Type 1 diabetes prevent him from living life to the fullest is an example anyone can follow. His message: "Yes You Can!!" applies to everyone learning to live with diabetes, regardless of age - including the parents of children with diabetes.
Ask Jay Leeuwenburg if a person with diabetes can enjoy life as completely as anyone without it, and he'll answer, "Yes I Can! Yes You Can!!"