NFL

The Unexpected Death of Former Cowboys and Ohio State RB Ron Springs

For several years during his Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys, running back Tony Dorsett had another talented running back who he shared some of the load with. That running back was Ron Springs. After a successful college career with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Springs found some success in the NFL with the Cowboys. However, following his football career, Springs tragically died way too young.

Ron Springs had success for the Cowboys after playing for Ohio State

In his career, Ron Springs shared some of the load in the Dallas Cowboys' backfield with Tony Dorsett. He, however, ultimately died too soon.
Ron Springs of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1980. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

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From 1976 through 1978, Springs played under legendary coach Woody Hayes on the Ohio State Buckeyes. He was even a captain for the team in his senior year, according to ESPN.

After he ran for 389 yards and two touchdowns in 1976, according to Sports Reference, Springs had a breakout year with the Buckeyes in 1977. He ultimately ran for 1,166 yards and seven touchdowns that season. 

Springs then ran for 585 yards and two touchdowns for Ohio State in 1978 before going to the NFL the next season.

The Cowboys then selected Springs in the fifth round of the 1979 NFL draft. Springs ultimately played in Dallas from 1979 through 1984, and the Cowboys were excellent in those years. Coached by the legendary Tom Landy, the Cowboys went to the playoffs in every season Springs was there, but his last in 1984. They also went to three straight conference championship games from 1980 through 1982. 

Springs only ran for 574 yards and eight touchdowns combined in his first two seasons in Dallas. He, however, had a pretty nice season in 1981. Springs ran for 625 yards and a team-leading 10 rushing touchdowns that season. He also caught 46 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns.

Springs only played in nine games in 1982. He, however, ran for 541 yards and seven touchdowns, in addition to catching 73 passes for 589 yards, in 1983. He then played for the Cowboys in one more season in 1984 before finishing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1985 and 1986. In his career, he ran for 2,519 yards and 28 touchdowns. Springs also caught 249 passes for 2,259 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Springs was in a coma for over three years

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For 20 years, Springs suffered from diabetes. This led to kidney failure, the amputation of his right foot, and the amputation of his big and middle toes on his left foot, according to CBS News.

In 2004, he needed a kidney. He, however, refused to take one from his son, Shawn Springs, because it would have ended his NFL playing career, according to ESPN. He ultimately received one from his former teammate, Everson Walls. 

About seven months after receiving the kidney, Springs went in for a surgery in 2007. It was to remove a cyst from his forearm, CBS News reported. He then slipped into a coma. 

“My husband was doing so well after the kidney transplant,” said Ron’s wife, Adriane Springs, according to ESPN. “This is just a very tragic outcome.”

He surprisingly died of a heart attack

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In May 2011, without ever regaining consciousness, Springs died at only 54 years old, CBS News reported. He ultimately died of a heart attack, according to ESPN.

“Ron’s life will always be remembered by the joy and laughter that he brought to others and the courage and toughness he displayed until the end,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement, according to ESPN. “Regardless of the circumstances, he always had a smile for everyone. The Dallas Cowboys have lost a wonderful member of our family, and we share our thoughts and prayers with his family.”

Despite Springs being in a coma for so long, his death was a surprise, according to Walls, the man who donated his kidney to Springs. 

“We are people of faith, and we never gave up [hope] that he would regain consciousness,” Walls said, according to CBS News.

He went on to say that Springs “was such a worldly person who touched so many lives in every area code.”

NFL stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference