Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach Rob Moore put an end to the speculation surrounding rookie WR Treylon Burks on Tuesday. Moore disclosed that Burks, who has been laboring through drills since rookie minicamp, is dealing with asthma.
Asthma helps explain why Burks was leaving drills and struggling with his breathing in front of Titans media early on in camp. Before fans start to wonder if asthma will hold Burks back in the NFL, let’s take a look at 10 of the world’s greatest athletes who competed with asthma.
1. Emmett Smith
When discussing the NFL’s best running backs to ever play, Smith is automatically in the conversation. The Hall of Famer hold the most rushing yards in NFL history (18,355) and won four rushing titles. In his 15-year career, Smith was an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl champion, and took home the MVP award in 1993.
2. Jerome Bettis
Like Smith, Bettis is another highly decorated running back who played with asthma. The Bus played 13 seasons in the NFL and ranks eighth all time in rushing yards with 13,662. Bettis struggled with the condition, leading to a serious asthma attack during a 1997 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Hall of Fame running back was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bell cow for nearly a decade and was a key contributor in the team’s Super Bowl XL victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 season.
3. Dennis Rodman
You could make a case that Rodman is the best rebounder in NBA history. He lead the league in rebounding for seven-consecutive seasons. Rodman played for five teams in his 14-year career, winning five NBA titles. Rodman’s condition led to him falling into the second round of the 1986 NBA draft, but didn’t deter him from being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
4. Dominique Wilkins
Arguably the best dunker basketball has ever seen, Wilkins did not let asthma define him as a player. Wilkins spent 16 seasons in the NBA, making nine All Star appearances. He is the best player to ever wear an Atlanta Hawks uniform and even won a scoring title in 1985-96.
5. David Beckham
Beckham was quite secretive about his case of asthma. In fact, it wasn’t until 2009 when he was playing with the LA Galaxy that he was photographed using an inhaler before the rest of the soccer world knew about his condition. Beckham was an international phenom, winning six Premier League titles, two MLS Cups, and one UEFA Champions League title.
6. Jackie Joyner-Kearse
Joyner-Kearse excelled in basketball and track at UCLA. Her asthma condition was so serious that she hid it from her coaches, believing that it would impact her career. After learning how to manage her asthma, Joyner-Kearse went on to dominate The Olympics. Joyner-Kearse won three gold medals, one silver, and two bronze, earning the honor of Sports Illustrated’s Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.
7. Kristi Yamaguchi
Diagnosed with asthma as a child, Yamaguchi found ways to manage her asthma differently. Being a world-renowned figure skater, Yamaguchi learned to cover her nose and mouth with a scarf in order to warm up the cold air she would breathe in during competitions. Yamaguchi took home gold in the 1992 Olympics.
8. Greg Louganis
Like Yamaguchi, Louganis was diagnosed with asthma as a child. Thought of as one of the best male divers in history, Louganis is decorated with five Olympic medals, five World Championship titles, and 47 national titles.
9. Amy Van Dyken
Van Dyken suffered from exercise-induced asthma (EIA) in her early years. In fact, her doctors recommended that she get into sports in an effort to strengthen her lungs. Van Dyken dominated in the pool, winning six Olympic golds in her career. Four of those came at the 1996 Summer Olympics, making her the most successful athlete at the Olympic Games.
10. J.D. Martinez
Martinez announced his asthma diagnosis in the 2020 MLB season. This forced the outfielder to take extreme caution as COVID-19 was in full swing. Speaking of swings, Martinez is one of the most feared bats in the American League. A four-time All Star, three-time Silver Slugger, and 2018 World Series Champion, Martinez is primed to make his fourth All-Star Game in his five seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
Playing with asthma is certainly difficult, but with so many examples of generational athletes who also struggled with the condition, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Burks. It’s no surprise that the Titans are taking things slow with their first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft as they both learn how to manage this condition together.
Featured image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK