South Salem football locked in biggest fight
When Chris Toomb was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes seven years ago, the first question he asked his doctor was could he still play football.
The doctor said yes.
"Okay, I can meet the challenge," Toomb told his doctor.
Now a senior linebacker for South Salem High School's football team, the 6-foot-2, 200 pound quarterback hunter shows with every sack - and he has seven in five games - that he can excel no matter the obstacle, whether it be an offensive lineman or diabetes.
"Chris has had a great year," South Salem coach Scott DuFault said. "We really missed him the two weeks he was out. He's been an anchor on the weak side of our defense.
"He's disciplined, does stuff right and I thought played really well Friday night. He kind of knocked the rust off a little bit against North Salem. He's real disciplined. I think he's going to be a good football player at the college level."
In conjunction with South Salem's Greater Valley Conference finale Friday against West Albany, the school will host a Diabetes Awareness Night.
Diabetes has directly and indirectly impacted South Salem's program in many ways: Toomb and junior safety Tony Phong have Type 1 Diabetes. DuFault and assistant coach Pete Sequeria have Type 2 Diabetes.
The program has already raised $2,100 and has a goal of raising $5,000 with 50 percent of funds going to the Chris Dudley Foundation and 50 percent to the American Diabetes Association.
"Last year when I came on as DFO we really wanted to take a community service activity," said South Salem Director of Football Operations Lis Ann Saxe. "We felt really proud of our two athletes that played with Type 1, and we wanted to do something to honor them.
"After they graduate this will be something we continue to do. I think it's really good that the team is involved in this, that we give back in some way. It's an organization that's close to our hearts."
Life is more challenging for anyone with diabetes, but being a football player with the disease is more challenging.
While other players come off the field after a play and grab a drink and talk to coaches, Toomb comes off the field and tests his blood sugar.
"It's definitely not an exact science," said Toomb, who has 35 tackles and two quarterback hurries. "It differs between diabetics. You kind of have to figure out with yourself. I know it's taken a long time for me with football.
"I've been playing football with diabetes for five or six years and just finally I'm figuring out where is the perfect place for me. I'm sure it's a different place than Tony wants to be at. Figuring out your diabetes and how it reacts to certain situations, so especially with activity and athletics, you kind of have to go out and experience it and figure out where you need to be at and where you perform the best."
Toomb and Phong refer to themselves as the "Diabuddies," and while they're both conscientious about their disease, they still lean on each other off the field to make sure they take care of themselves.
"We usually check up on each other throughout practice, too," said Phong, who has two interceptions, four passes defensed and 32 tackles this season. "How is your blood sugar right now?"
Phong has a history of Type 2 Diabetes in his family, but it was still a surprise when in first grade he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes.
He said he tests six to 10 times per day and more frequently before practices.
"I feel like it's kind of a time thing, also," said Phong, also a starter in baseball. "You have to organize your time pretty well. Especially pregame, I test at the same time every time."
Toomb has been attending the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp in Vernonia in the summers since a year after his diagnosis and was a counselor at the camp last summer.
He said he learned a great deal directly from Dudley about how to play sports a high level.
"The whole message there is they bring about 75 kids from all over the country, and Chris works with them about how to be active with diabetes," said Kent Toomb, Chris' father who is with him on the sidelines at all times. "He was diagnosed when he was 16, went on to Yale there, played in the NBA 16 years, so very successful in managing diabetes.
"It's a basketball camp, but it's really more of teaching the kids to achieve their goals with diabetes. He's just been an extremely positive role model."
Toomb has a legitimate shot at reaching his goal of playing college football.
He hasn't beaten diabetes, but he's learned to manage it so that he can achieve highly in all areas of being a student-athlete.
"He's a 4.0 student in an International Baccalaureate program," DuFault said. "He's really, really smart. He'll make mistakes one time. I think he has a chance to play.
"I think he'll be a Division III kind of kid, and he's going to go to school and become a doctor or do something extraordinary in his life. He's just a really smart, really driven kid, mature beyond his years. I think he has a chance to go play college football, and he has a chance to be successful."
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler
CDF caught up with the Tombs who gave us Part II to the article above that ran this fall in the Salem Statesman Journal. Our thanks to this special family!
Chris is graduating as a salutatorian of his class with a 3.98 G.P.A. He will be attending University of Puget Sound inTacoma, Washington where he plans to study biology and pursue a career in the medical field, either as a physician or a biomedical researcher. Chris was recruited to play outside linebacker for the Logger football program next year and is looking forward to four more years on the field.
Chris has worked hard over the years with his endocrinologist Dr. Lisa Madison to become independent with his diabetes, and he and his Dad have developed a great game plan for managing during football season. He has taken the most rigorous courses in high school through South Salem's International Baccalaureate program the past four years and has learned how to control his stress by planning and working ahead, keeping things balanced with sports and academic demands in order to control his blood sugar. Chris knows that being self-disciplined and responsible are key to helping him be successful in the classroom and on the football field.
In a recent scholarship interview, Chris was asked who his role models are: He said, "My Dad and Chris Dudley." From his Dad he learned how working hard is the secret success, and from Chris Dudley he has learned to Dream BIG and not let diabetes keep him from achieving his goals. He wants to wish them a very Happy Father's Day and thanks them both for the positive impact they have had on his life.