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Bobby Wagner Honors Mother & Supports Stroke Care & Education For My Cause My Cleats Game

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner will continue his push to promote stroke care and education with custom cleats on Thursday night as part of the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative.

Bobby Wagner is supporting FAST54 for 2023 My Cause My Cleats during Week 13 vs. the Cowboys.
Bobby Wagner is supporting FAST54 for 2023 My Cause My Cleats during Week 13 vs. the Cowboys.

When the Seahawks take the field Thursday to warm up for that evening's game in Dallas, Bobby Wagner will sport custom Air Jordan cleats featuring an image of him with his mother, Phenia Mae.

Wagner will wear the shoes as part of the league's My Cause My Cleats initiative, in part to honor his mother, who died when he was in college, the result of a stroke suffered during his freshman year. But he is also representing his mom, the Phenia Mae Fund and FAST54, an initiative he launched in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health earlier this season, so others who have been affected by strokes or lost loved ones know that they are not alone.

"It's important to me because you realize how many people suffer from strokes, and how preventable strokes can be," he said. "Having had somebody be affected by a stroke, and meeting a lot of people that have had family members, or have themselves suffered a stroke, I just wanted to figure out a way to make a difference. It means something to me, it's authentic."

When Wagner was dealing with the loss of his mother while a student at Utah State, he didn't feel like he had anyone who could relate to what he and his family were going through, and when his younger brother, Robert, discovered Phenia Mae after her stroke, he wasn't aware of the signs laid out in the FAST acronym (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911) to know what was happening to their mother, though his call to 911 did save her life, allowing her and her family to have several months together before she eventually died from complications of the stroke.

And that's something Wagner wants to change for other stroke victims and their families. Through FAST54, which includes a multimedia comic book, as well as the Phenia Mae Fund, Wagner wants to not only raise money that can help families affected by strokes, but also raise awareness.

"The biggest thing that's been cool is when people come up to me holding the comic book, and they share their story," Wagner said. "They share about a family member that it happened to them, and just how it helped them being able to talk about it, it's cool. Back in the day, I didn't have anybody to talk about it with."

This is the first time Wagner has participated in the My Cause My Cleats initiative, continuing a shift of opening up more about his life off the field, whereas early in his career, Wagner wasn't all that comfortable talking outside of football.

A private person by nature, Wagner for the most part didn't speak publicly about his family during his first few years in Seattle. Over time, however, people who did know Wagner's story came to him for advice or support when a loved one had a stroke. And as Wagner's platform continued to grow with each All-Pro season, he realized that his family's story could help others.

"It took time for me," Wagner said in September when announcing the launch of FAST54. "It happened when I was in college, so I didn't really talk about it much, especially my first few years in the league. But then as I started talking about it, I started having people come to me like, 'Oh, my pops or my grandfather or my mom or my grandma had a stroke too.' People asked me for advice, and I was like, maybe there's more people out there I can help than just the people that I'm around."

With that in mind, Wagner teamed up with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health on the Phenia Mae Fund, which raises money to ensure that stroke patients have equipment needed to aid in their rehabilitation, and later for the launch of FAST54, a multimedia comic, starring Wagner himself, to provide education about stroke prevention in an entertaining way. Both FAST54 and the Phenia Mae Fund are represented in the white Jordan's Wagner will take with him to Dallas. Fans interested in donating to the Phenia Mae Fund can do so here.

"What the comic shows is that you don't have to be a superhero to save a life," Wagner said. "My brother is somebody who saved a life, prolonged a life. He just made a call and followed his instincts. We're trying to give people more tools for when something like this happens so their instincts take over."

Wagner said he was inspired to get the message out via comic book by the recent animated Spider-Man movies, "Into the Spider-Verse" and "Across the Spider-Verse," with the idea being that a comic book will be relatable to all generations. Wagner's younger brother, Robert, was only 14 when he found their mother following her stroke, and at the time didn't know what was happening to her.

"I wanted to do something fun, because it relates to everybody, from older generations to younger generations," Wagner said. "Like my brother, he was super young when he found my mom. I'm pretty sure he didn't know what was going on, he just reacted. He's the one who found her, he was younger than I was. Creating a comic book is a fun way to interact with a lot of people from different generations."

As Wagner puts together yet another impressive season in a career full of them, he will also share an important message and honor his mother this week through the league's My Cause My Cleats initiative.

"Back then when it happened to my mom, I don't think there was as much education around strokes," Wagner said. "And even now as I've gotten older, I've seen more people experience strokes, be it family members or celebrities, and it's something that's not necessarily talked about enough. It's something that can be prevented, to an extent, if the proper steps are taken to prevent it."

Check out the custom-designed cleats for this years My Cause My Cleat. Some players will wear their cleats during the Week 13 Thursday Night game at Dallas.

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