Report: Springs in coma following surgery to remove cyst

Updated: October 17, 2007, 8:13 AM ET news services

DALLAS -- Former Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs has been hospitalized in a coma, reportedly due to complications from surgery, more than seven months after receiving a kidney donated by ex-teammate Everson Walls.

According to a story in Wednesday's Dallas Morning News, Springs checked into Medical City Dallas Hospital last Saturday for surgery to remove a cyst from his elbow. A family friend told the newspaper that Springs expected to return home that night, but as of late Tuesday, Springs was on a respirator and had no brain activity, the newspaper reported.

The Washington Redskins said Tuesday that cornerback Shawn Springs, son of the 50-year-old Springs, has left the team to be with his father.

"[Shawn] has flown down there -- it's a very tough time for them because I think it's very, very serious," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused Ron Springs, who has diabetes, to lapse into a coma or when he was hospitalized. Calls to the family weren't returned.

In February, Walls donated his kidney to the ailing Springs, who had suffered from diabetes for 16 years and had been on the national transplant waiting list since 2004. It was the first transplant between two former U.S. professional athletes.

The disease confined Springs to a wheelchair and led to the amputation of his right foot and the big and middle toes on his left foot.

In an August interview with The Associated Press, Springs said he could feel his health improving each day since the transplant.

"I'm feeling very good," he said at the time. "Every day I get a little bit better."

Springs played eight seasons in the NFL -- six with the Cowboys and two in Tampa Bay -- before retiring after the 1986 season. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Cowboys out of Ohio State.

In the four seasons Springs and Walls played together in Dallas, the two forged a strong friendship. Springs is the godfather of Walls' oldest daughter, and Walls received the same honor for Springs' youngest.

This summer, Ron and Shawn Springs visited several cities in a campaign to increase awareness of diabetes.

In September, Walls testified in Washington before a House subcommittee on behalf of an organ donation bill that would give grants to states' organ donor programs and track the long-term health of people who have donated organs.

Earlier that month, Walls and Springs served as honorary captains for the Cowboys' season opener, giving them a chance to raise awareness about their new Gift for Life Foundation. The foundation aims to educate people about ways to prevent chronic kidney disease and dispel myths about the living donor process.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.