Former NFL player Tunch Ilkin dies at 63

Former NFL player Tunch Ilkin dies at 63
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Tunch Ilkin has died, according to a statement from Steelers President Art Rooney II. He was 63.

Ilkin was a two-time NFL Pro Bowl player, the statement said.

“His passion for the game of football was evident in his everyday life,” Rooney said. “As a player, he fought his way through tough times of being cut and injured but continued to make an impact as a leader of our offensive line and made two Pro Bowls.”

Ilkin was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2020.

The disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or more commonly ALS — is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that make the muscles of both the upper and lower body work. Those nerve cells lose their ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which leads to paralysis and death.

People with the condition lose control of muscle movement, eventually losing their ability to eat, speak, walk and, ultimately, breathe.

ALS is called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player who retired in 1939 because of the condition. Famed physicist Stephen Hawking also suffered from the disease.

“After his playing career, Tunch continued to make an impact in our community in so many ways,” Rooney’s statement added. “His efforts and dedication to to the Light of Life (Rescue Mission) was unparalleled, and his desire to always help others made everyone appreciate him.”

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