ALS ice bucket challenge hits close to home for UGA senior

semerson@macon.comAugust 19, 2014 

ATHENS — Watts Dantzler got a text message from his sister about three weeks ago: Had he heard what was going on? Did he know what people were doing for ALS?

It was nuts, Dantlzer thought. But he smiled.

Since then, the Georgia senior offensive lineman has watched in amazement as the ice bucket challenge has swept the nation. For Dantzler and his family, it’s not a fad. It’s an amazing effort to raise awareness for the disease that killed his father.

Danny Dantzler, a guard for the Georgia football team from 1971-73, passed away five years ago from ALS.

“It’s definitely a huge part of my life,” Dantzler said, lifting his right sleeve to reveal a large tattoo, with the words “ALS” part of a tribute to his father.

He got the tattoo because he used to write his father’s initials on his wrist before every basketball or football game.

“That way it was permanent,” he said.

The ice bucket challenge has resulted in nearly $23 million in donations for ALS research during the past three weeks, according to ABC News. That nearly equals the $23.5 million raised all of last year.

“It’s such a terrible disease,” Dantzler said. “With everybody helping out, tons of celebrities and stuff, it’s skyrocketed the normal donations, which is awesome. Hopefully that can make headway for an advancements of some things that can help slow it down or completely stop the disease.”

Dantzler was a freshman in high school when his father was diagnosed, and doctors believe he had the disease for about a year-and-a-half at that point. He passed away about a year-and-a-half later, in late winter of 2009.

It’s not Dantzler’s only connection to ALS. One of his former coaches in Dalton, Bill Napier, is battling the disease. He’s the father of Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier.

Then came the ice bucket challenge craze. A few weeks ago, Dantzler was actually challenged. Aaron Murray texted him that he was going to challenge three of his former linemen, including Dantzler, who isn’t sure if Murray was aware of his background with it.

At first Dantzler didn’t want to do it. It was too emotional for him.

But when his mother and aunt came down Friday for Georgia’s picture day, they brought it up. When they asked if he wanted to do it, the challenge took on a different meaning, so he quickly agreed.

During the weekend, Georgia head coach Mark Richt poured an ice bucket over Dantzler, his mother and aunt.

And then Dantzler and his mother hugged and cried.

“It was a special moment,” he said.

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