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August 1, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
HOOVER, Ala. -- With a towel soaked in ice water wrapped around his neck, Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian head coach Josh Floyd paced the sidelines, trying to remain calm as his team suffered defeat after defeat at the recently competed National Select 7-on-7.
Not exactly what the doctor ordered.
Floyd, 32, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis late in May, and part of the plan for managing the symptoms is staying out of the sun and limiting stress.
Good luck with that.
For Floyd, a football coach at a high-profile school, those are two recommendations to which it could be difficult to adhere.
"I guess I am still getting used to all of it," he said. "I don't think I can ever stop the stress, that is part of it, but I try to limit my sun exposure.
"I don't think this is something that is going to change who I am, so long as I am smart about it. I can live a long, normal life, and coach."
Coaching has been something Floyd has excelled at since he got his first chance. Now in his ninth season as the head coach at his alma mater, he has accumulated an 89-19 record and won four state championships with one runner-up finish.
He learned his craft, largely, from being a student of Guz Malzahn when he was the quarterback at Shiloh Christian and Malzahn was the head coach.
Floyd went on to play college football at Ouachita Baptist University before coaching and it was an injury that ended his playing days that helped quickly diagnose his MS.
"When I was a sophomore, I had a concussion and they found an abnormal blood vessel in my brain," Floyd said. "It has nothing to do with this, but when I told my doctors about it they rushed my MRI and that helped expedite this diagnosis."
The entire situation has unfolded quickly, according to Floyd.
During the last week of spring practice, Floyd said that he started feeling numbness in his left arm. As the week progressed it moved to his leg and eventually his entire left side had some level of numbness.
At that point he chose to go to the neurologist.
"It was scary," Floyd said. "We were shocked really. Most people were telling me it was probably a pinched nerve or something, but within three or four days we got the diagnosis."
Then came the decision to tell his team; it was a choice that was tougher than expected.
"I did not want anyone to know, honestly," he said. "But I missed a day of practice and so I figured people would be talking and speculating so I didn't want rumors or things to come out so we had to tell everyone."
Following the press release by the school there it was an outpouring of support from the Shiloh Christian community and the broader high school football community.
"I have been overwhelmed with support," Floyd said. "We have a big family at Shiloh and it has stretched across the country."
Floyd has received warm wishes from neighboring states and pastors as far as Georgia.
The next step in the process for Floyd is management of the symptoms which are sporadic and unpredictable.
"Just last week the numbness fully went away," he said. "Everything about this is different for every person and nothing is 100-percent but from what I have been told it is manageable."
The National MS Society acknowledges that there is no cure for the disease, but through a series of treatments and life modifications, the quality of life can remain the same.
Floyd is hoping that with diet and exercise he can minimize the attacks.
"I like to work out so, that is not a big thing for me," he said. "It isn't like I need to lose a lot of weight to stay healthy, but I can eat better and I am taking medicine. I just started to take a shot every morning and that should help, too."
Floyd has found solace in the disease's recent public awareness.
Just three weeks after Floyd received his diagnosis, Jack Osbourne, the son of legendary rocker Ozzie Osbourne, was given the same diagnosis.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, has been an advocate for MS awareness, using her public stage as a platform for medical advancements.
Floyd said that each of their battles has made him more well-versed when handling the questions from his players, as well as the doubts in his own mind.
"It is nice to have other people to draw on," he said. "Jack Osbourne was right at the same time as mine, so it shed light onto things that I didn't really know about even in my own research.
"The kids will ask from time to time, but I was upfront with them and told them all that I wouldn't be giving daily updates."
So far each player has maintained, what Floyd called, an appropriate level of concern.
"Kids are kids and they really want to make sure you are going to be okay and be there for them," he said. "The hardest part is the fatigue right now. I can get a full night sleep and still feel exhausted."
Floyd's doctors had wanted him to rest more during the summer, but with the group returning to Shiloh Christian he has barely scaled back his time.
"I am very excited about this group coming up," he said. "They really bought in. Having huge success like we did can sometimes make it hard to keep young people interested in the message but after last year I don't think people want that again and this group is stepping up."
Shiloh endured its worst season in Floyd's tenure last year going 5-6. It was more losses than the last five seasons combined and his first losing record.
Despite the tough times, and his diagnosis, Floyd is ready to move forward -- with his team and his health.
"The expectations are for this team to be in Little Rock at the end of the season," he said. "I am ready to get this team back there.
"I am excited to be a part of the future of this program and I plan to be here for a long time."