Mark Rypien coping with family tragedy
Life’s ugly fickleness can strike anyone – even someone who seems to have everything going their way like Mark Rypien.
Blessed with a lovely wife, three precious children and million-dollar status as an NFL quarterback, the 37-year-old Rypien had a life that he wouldn’t trade with anyone.
Then along came 1998.
In a one-month period, the 1992 Super Bowl MVP learned that his wife, Annette, had cervical cancer and his son, Andrew, had an inoperable brain tumor. Andrew died last September only two months after his third birthday.
“My faith was questioned. I went though being raised a christian in the Catholic faith. We cursed often. What is deserving of this? Then you pray for a miracle and then you also pray for some dignity when the day comes,” said Rypien, who will play in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship July 2-4 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “All of our doctors were saying, unfortunately the way you’ll know, he’ll have a massive seizure or stroke. It could be in front of family, it could be in front of girls, so you pray for some dignity.
Rypien’s only son died in his sleep Sept. 22, leaving the couple with daughters Ambre and Angela.
“If he didn’t answer that, I think a lot of our faith would have gone out the window. He already put this upon him, but why take him in a violent way, too. Show us some belief that we can have faith in you. That’s what keeps us going and believing the way we believe today. Our ultimate prayer wasn’t answered, but the one that was able to let Andrew go the way he would have wanted to go was.”
Annette has since recovered from her bout with cervical cancer, and the family has tried to move forward.
“There are days, just like Annette and I, that the girls struggle with. They are little more reserved about it, and you have a little more understanding. Maybe they see another 3-year-old boy doing something at school, and they kind of clam up or miss him just as much as we are right now,” Rypien said.
When the family crisis intervened last May, Rypien was just wrapping up a mini camp with the Atlanta Falcons, a club which had signed him to a two-year, $1.8 million contract. He didn’t return to the Falcons, who advanced to the Super Bowl with 44-year-old Steve DeBerg as their backup quarterback, and lost the huge sum of money.
“To say football is going to be a part of your life then is nuts. It wasn’t a tough decision at all. The tough thing is losing a child. That’s something a parent shouldn’t have to go through,” he said.
In moving on with his life, Rypien must now decide if he wants to continue playing professional football. Recovering from arthroscopic surgery to a rotator cuff tear to his throwing shoulder has left Rypien uncertain of his future.
“Maybe this is just saying, hey, football is over. The sad part is I felt because of the injury to my shoulder that I wasn’t able to play to the level I think I could play. I wasn’t able to finish on the terms I’d like to finish on. That’s what drove me to come back, not necessarily the money or anything. I wanted to show that I still had something to offer physically,” Rypien said. “Unless something changes, unless my heart and my passion and drive are for football in the next couple of months, I don’t know if I’ll be able to come back.”
San Diego Chargers GM Bobby Beathard invited Rypien to this week’s three-day minicamp, but Rypien declined.
“I was excited to go down there to see Joe Bugel, Bobby and get familiar with the facilities. But I kind of hemmed and hawed, and that’s not me. The guy that loved and enjoyed football is the guy who wanted to be there and woke up in the morning and had a drive and desire to be there and was the last guy to leave. The drive is not there at this point in time,” Rypien said.
“I really haven’t had any progression with my shoulder. The mental side of that, plus knowing that June, July and August of last year were so tough for us and to be at minicamp and training camp, I might be an emotional basket case. I don’t know.”
Rypien said he can fire the ball 50 yards downfield, but is having difficulty throwing the pattern that separates the collegiate players from the pros – the 15-yard out.
“I don’t want to go out and hurt myself or embarrass myself, and if I’m going to do it, I want to be there mentally and physically,” he said.
As the Rypiens continue to deal with their great loss, the 1990 celebrity championship winner is content to be around the people he loves the most at home in Post Falls, Idaho.
“My drive and passion now is coaching my kids in softball and being out on the golf course. Like my wife says, ‘Your eyes light up when you’re going to play golf with your brothers or your buddies. That’s a game you love.'”
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