NFL Vets Chris Draft and Levon Kirkland Join Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge Winner at NFL Pro Bowl January 25th

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All Pro Linebacker Levon Kirkland joins NFL veteran Chris Draft and lung cancer survivors at Pro Bowl; former players carry messages of hope and the truth about lung cancer as they open up about losing their wives to a disease that is often misunderstood

Team Draft Lung Cancer Awareness with NFL vets Chris Draft and Levon Kirkland

NFL vets Chris Draft and Levon Kirkland team up for Lung Cancer Awareness at Pro Bowl

“Super Bowl week is a fitting time to spotlight the crusade to change the face of lung cancer. The commitment , drive and passion required to make it this far parallels the effort required to take lung cancer research to the next level." Chris Draft

Former NFL linebackers Chris Draft and Levon Kirkland will hold the line against lung cancer at the NFL Pro Bowl January 25th. Kirkland, an All-Pro linebacker who spent ten seasons in the NFL playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, and Philadelphia Eagles, joins Chris Draft and his Team Draft initiative in hosting lung cancer survivors Dan Powell and Rick Owens at the Pro Bowl. The stories that bring the men together in Arizona are full of coincidence, challenges and hope.

Draft and Kirkland have much more than their NFL careers in common. They both married dynamic, outgoing women named Keasha who lost their lives to lung cancer at an early age. Neither Keasha Draft nor Keisha Kirkland smoked, and like thousands of other lung cancer survivors, they were stunned by their diagnoses. Before they passed away, both women dedicated themselves to changing the face of lung cancer and educating people about the true nature of the disease--a disease that is too often mischaracterized as a “smoker’s disease”. Their legacies live, with their husbands continuing their fight.

Chris Draft and Levon Kirkland will watch the Pro Bowl with Dan Powell and Rick Owens who are also on the front lines in the lung cancer fight. Dan Powell was 35 when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. A non-smoker, Powell is well aware of the role air quality plays in lung health- he has served as Director of Air Quality for Greenville County, South Carolina. Powell won the trip to the Pro Bowl in Team Draft’s Super Bowl Challenge--a friendly competition between lung cancer survivors to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer research and treatment. Dan’s guest at the Pro Bowl will be his friend Rick Owens who was diagnosed with lung cancer in October of last year. Rick shares another bond with the Team Draft lung cancer awareness project unfolding in Arizona--he works for Clemson University, the alma mater of both Keasha Draft and Levon Kirkland.

“Super Bowl week is a fitting time to spotlight the crusade to change the face of lung cancer. The level of commitment, drive and passion required to make it this far parallels the efforts required to get lung cancer research to the next level,” said Chris Draft who co-founded Team Draft with his late wife Keasha to change the face of lung cancer.

Born and raised in Williamston, outside Greenville, South Carolina, Keasha Draft danced with Clemson University’s Rally Cats dance squad before graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering. She later worked as an engineer and then in pharmaceutical sales and enjoyed dancing for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets dance team.

Keasha had never smoked when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in December 2010 after experiencing a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Keasha and Chris fought back. They launched Team Draft at their wedding on November 27, 2011, but just one month later, Keasha lost her courageous fight and died at the age of 38.

A Danville, Kentucky native, Keisha Kirkland attended the University of Louisville before transferring to Life University where she completed chiropractic school, graduating with honors. Keisha went on to pursue a career in broadcasting, and became the weather anchor at NBC TV affiliate WYFF Channel 4 in Greenville, South Carolina.

Keisha and Levon had a 5 year old daughter, Kennedy when Keisha was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite her illness, Keisha spent many months speaking at churches and support groups, giving hope to others who faced the challenge of lung cancer and other adversities. Keisha Kirkland shared her story nationwide in a CNN special about lung cancer and Team Draft’s efforts to change the face of the disease. In October of 2013, Keisha Kirkland passed away at the age of 41 after battling lung cancer for 5 years.

“Keisha’s memory is celebrated with every advance we see in lung cancer research,” said Levon Kirkland. “ Keisha had a strong faith and her wish was that someone would hear her story and be inspired or encouraged as they endure personal challenges, by bringing her story to the forefront, we are carrying out her wish.” said Kirkland.

Draft and Kirkland thank pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company and their Lilly Oncology team for sponsoring the Team Draft initiative to change the face of lung cancer.

About Team Draft

Team Draft is an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation created by former NFL linebacker Chris Draft and his late wife Keasha during Keasha’s year-long struggle with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Team Draft is committed to educating people about the true nature of lung cancer, raising funds for research and improving the lives of those affected by the disease. To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, or make a donation, please visit http://www.teamdraft.org.

About Levon Kirkland

Born in Lamar, South Carolina, Levon Kirkland attended Clemson University before being drafted in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft. Kirkland played 11 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, and Philadelphia Eagles. The All-Pro linebacker was named to two consecutive Pro Bowls, and was a member of the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers team that made it to Super Bowl XXX in Arizona. After retiring from the NFL, Kirkland returned to Clemson to complete his degree in sociology. He is currently the Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers’ Coach at Florida A&M University.

About Chris Draft

A native of Anaheim, California, Chris Draft graduated with degree in economics from Stanford University where he was a standout in both football and baseball before being selected by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Draft played more than 10 years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins. Known for his leadership both on and off the field, Draft has received numerous accolades and awards in recognition of his tireless commitment. A recognized health care advocate and leader of a National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer, Draft has appeared on many national and local new outlets, including CNN and ESPN. He is the founder of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, co-cofounder of the Foundation’s Team Draft initiative, and currently serves as an NFL Ambassador.

About Lilly Oncology

For more than five decades, Lilly Oncology, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, has been dedicated to delivering innovative solutions that improve the care of people living with cancer. Because no two cancer patients are alike, Lilly Oncology is committed to developing novel treatment approaches. To learn more about Lilly's commitment to cancer, please visit http://www.LillyOncology.com .

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