NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Titans and Oilers from the past were at Nissan Stadium Tuesday morning, but not for football.
Instead, they joined forces with the NFL Alumni Association and the Tennessee Department of Health as part the “GEAR UP, Tennessee!” campaign, an effort to remind the public to get COVID-19 booster shots.
The campaign features former Tennessee Titans legends, including Hall of Famer and All-Pro quarterback and Titans Ring of Honor member Warren Moon, former All-Pro defensive end Jevon Kearse, and NFL Alumni Tennessee Chapter President and former Houston Oilers All-Pro linebacker Al Smith.
NFL Alumni is also teaming up with Mayor John Cooper’s Office along with other public and private sector leaders and community organization across the state. They plan to hold public events, townhalls, listening sessions, and mobile vaccine clinics while reminding the public that COVID-19 is still present and to get vaccinated/boosted.
“On the field, I always wore a helmet and pads to make sure I was protected; life is no different. That is why I chose to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Moon said. “I would encourage anyone with questions about getting vaccinated or boosted to speak to their healthcare providers so they can make an informed decision to protect themselves and their families.”
The United States has had nearly 100 million cases of COVID-19 reported; more than one million Americans have died, including over 28,000 Tennesseans since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC and TDH.
The CDC reports over 650 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country. The vaccines have also been proven to be safe and effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
Nearly 70% of Americans and 48% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated, but less than 14% of Americans nationwide have been vaccinated with the latest bivalent booster. Furthermore, only about 5% of Tennesseans have received the new bivalent booster shot that includes added protection for the most recent COVID-19 variants, according to TDH.
Brad Hopkins, former Titan and two-time Pro Bowl tackle, shared a very personal story of how his COVID-19 diagnosis affected his family, especially his father.
“I couldn’t taste that second plate of Thanksgiving,” Hopkins said. “‘Let me go ahead and take a test.’ Sure enough that thing came back positive.”
While Hopkins’ illness was minor, his father wasn’t as lucky.
“My dad has had three strokes, and he’s paralyzed on his right side. He’s pretty much using a walker and sometimes a wheelchair when necessary,” Hopkins said. “My mom calls me and she says, ‘Brad, I need you to come over and help get your dad off the floor of the bathroom…he’s just too weak to get off the floor. He’s tired; there’s something going on with him.’ Got him off the floor, took his temperature, it was 103 (degrees). We took him into the hospital. He had COVID and he had strep.”
Hopkins’ father is already high risk due to high blood pressure and cholesterol. Due to his father’s health issues, Hopkins said he’s always been cognizant about keeping his dad safe and couldn’t help but wonder how he gave got COVID and passed it on to his father.
“I got a massage Monday, the Monday before Thanksgiving, not even thinking about the young lady who was giving me the massage coughing and even telling me she’s just back from being sick,” Hopkins said. “I gave (COVID) to my dad, I gave it to my son, I gave it to my wife, all from a massage. This is 2023 about to round the corner. (COVID) ain’t going anywhere.”
While vaccines don’t guarantee that you will not contract COVID-19, they do protect you from serious illness and hospitalization, which is why Hopkins is urging the public to get vaccinated and boosted.
“It’s better to have some sort of defense than to not have some sort of defense,” Hopkins said.
The “GEAR UP, Tennessee!” effort encourages anyone who may be on the fence to talk with trusted healthcare providers and make an “informed decision” about getting vaccinated.
Furthermore, over 120 current and former NFL players, including 35 Super Bowl Champions, 46 Pro Bowlers, and 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have participated in NFL Alumni’s work related to vaccination.