MEMPHIS — Dave Bennett, a former University of Tennessee football player, died Monday morning after a 2½-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Bennett, 42, was diagnosed with ALS after sustaining a concussion following a fall from a snowboard. Bennett fought the disease with a positive attitude, his wife, Paige, said.
"Dave was a fighter by spirit, a competitor," she said. "He always had a winning attitude. Everything he did, he did it wholeheartedly. He was not going to let this disease take him down easily. That's how Dave will be remembered, just one that was full of life, full of spirit.
"As far as the disease was concerned, he fought it. ... He was not going to let it win."
Bennett's battle was chronicled in an October 2011 column by The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins. Bennett had difficulty speaking at the time, but would flash a thumbs-up when asked how he was doing. "He is quick with the thumbs-up," Calkins wrote.
The positive approach couldn't help but rub off on friends and family members who watched him battle the disease, Paige said.
"At times, it made it difficult just watching him suffering," she said. "But he always told us, myself and the kids, to fight this disease. We are to rise above and press on despite our circumstances. That's the attitude he taught us to have through this.
"Until he breathed his last breath (Monday) morning, he never gave up."
After playing for Germantown High School, Bennett signed with UT and played safety for the Vols from 1989-92. He started his final two seasons, finishing his career with 57 tackles.
Bennett also is survived by sons Blake, 16, and Riley, 11.