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Ex-Northwestern player battling disease....


The Man In The Box
'14 Bowl Upsets Champ
<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=+1]Lutzen battling tough disease[/size][/font]
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</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>Chuck Delsman, staff writer</TD><TD align=right>July 28, 2004</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>
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</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Life certainly takes some cruel and unusual twists.[/font] </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Nobody knows that more than Greg Lutzen of Pewaukee.

Lutzen, a muscular 21-year-old football player at Northwestern University, seemed on the top of his athletic world last season. The former Pewaukee High School standout was seeing a lot of action as a backup guard for the Wildcats in the prestigious Big 10 Conference.

And there was little doubt, no matter who you talked to, that Lutzen was going to be a starter at offensive guard once the 2004 season began in late August. At a ripped 295 pounds, the 6-5 redshirt junior seemed on his way to big things in college football.

Everything seemed to be going just perfect for the fourth-year student-athlete. Life was good. Football was good. It seemed nothing could go wrong.

<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=4 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><SCRIPT language=JavaScript1.1 src="http://bannerads.zwire.com/bannerads/bannerad.asp?ADLOCATION=4000&PAG=461&BRD=1399&LOCALPCT=50&AREA=409&VERT=7035&AT=JS&barnd=4010"></SCRIPT>
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<!-- ----------Advertising.com Banner Code---------- --><SCRIPT language=JavaScript src="http://servedby.advertising.com/site=684576/size=250250/bnum=42028932/optn=1"></SCRIPT><NOSCRIPT> </NOSCRIPT><!-- ----------Copyright 2000, Advertising.com---------- --><SCRIPT language=JavaScript><!-- if (parseFloat(navigator.appVersion) == 0) { document.write('<IFRAME width=\"\" MARGINWIDTH=0 MARGINHEIGHT=0 HSPACE=0 VSPACE=0 FRAMEBORDER=0 SCROLLING=no BORDER=\"0\" BORDERCOLOR=\"#000000\" SRC="http://bannerads.zwire.com/bannerads/bannerad.asp?ADLOCATION=4000&PAG=461&BRD=1399&LOCALPCT=50&AREA=409&VERT=7035&AT=IF&barnd=8052"></iframe>'); } //--> </SCRIPT> <NOSCRIPT> </NOSCRIPT></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Unfortunately, that's where the cruel twist of fate stepped into Lutzen's life.

After playing in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit against Bowling Green in late December, Lutzen went to Mexico with his family on a vacation. At the time, it seemed like a perfect way to wind down after a long and grinding college football season.

But as good as things seemed to be at the time, that's exactly when things started going wrong.

After just a day in sunny and warm Mexico, Lutzen noticed a pronounced numbing in his left leg. He could barely feel a thing in his foot. Whenever water would touch his left leg, he would get a terrible burning sensation.

"I just woke up one morning and the numbness was there and didn't go away," Lutzen said earlier this week, while at Northwestern. "It started going up and down my entire left side. And then when water would touch my skin, cold or hot, it would start to burn. I knew then that something was wrong."

As soon as Lutzen returned home to Pewaukee, he went to Northwestern and saw the team doctor. He quickly sent Lutzen to a neurologist.

At that point, it was discovered that Lutzen had transverse myelitis, a disease similar to multiple sclerosis. He was found to have one lesion on his spinal cord in his neck and another at the stem of his brain.

From there he got another opinion from the leading neurologist at the famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He agreed with the first diagnosis. The neurologist told Lutzen it was best to end his football career.

"That was quite a shock to me at first, that playing football was no longer going to be a part of my life," Lutzen said. "As a kid I dreamed of the day of playing college football. And now it was gone. That hurt for a long time. But now, having some time to think about it, I guess I'm kind of lucky. There are a lot less fortunate people than me. There are people in wheelchairs, people with serious brain diseases, people who cannot see or hear. So, putting it all into perspective, I guess it's not so bad. I've got a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to."

Lutzen, who graduated from Pewaukee High School in 2000 as one of the most successful athletes in school history, plans on finishing school this year and graduating with a degree in communications.

However, he admits, not getting the chance to finish his final two years of college football is something that's hard to get out of his mind.

"I'm fine with it right now, but it was really tough at first," Lutzen added. "My symptoms are better now and they are improving. But they're still there and it's annoying. I'm disappointed with that. However, I have to stay positive. There's a lot more going on in my life than missing a few football games. I've put it into perspective and know it could be a lot worse. I'm just staying as positive as I can."

Lutzen, always a workhorse in the weight room, can't go back to the rigors of that kind of exercise anymore. He can only lift weights for a short time. If he lifts too much or too long, the symptoms return. More lesions could develop if he works out too hard or would return to football.

"Right now I still lift, but just for a little while," Lutzen said. "I swim a lot now. I can't run like I used to be able to, because of the numbness. So now I spend a lot of time in the pool."

Lutzen has lost 50 pounds since January, weighing in at 245 at the moment. His symptoms have improved a lot since April.

"Back in January and February, I had trouble walking at times," Lutzen said. "I had trouble staying on my feet and not falling down. Things are a lot better. I just hope they keep getting better."

While his academic schedule is set for the coming year, he hopes to work on the Northwestern football staff, perhaps with the redshirt freshmen and the developmental squad.

"I've talked to some of the coaches about helping out whereever I can," the personable Wildcat said. "I'd like to be in the weight room with the guys and help out at practice. I just don't know how many days of the week I can do it right now. I'm going to talk with my doctors and see what they say."

Lutzen remains on full scholarship and will be at all the home games. He might even travel with the team to a couple of road games.

"The guys on the team are like a family to me," Lutzen said. "They've stayed right with me through this ordeal. So have the coaches. That's why I want to give something back to the team if I can."

That statement alone tells you the kind of person Greg Lutzen is.