Cody Davis first met Eric Stevens when both were undrafted rookies with the then St. Louis Rams. As training camp roommates, the two became fast friends. Even when Eric decided to retire from the NFL to pursue a career as a fire fighter in Los Angeles, their friendship stayed strong. It's a relationship that goes beyond football.
Now, Cody is standing beside Eric as he faces the fight of his life.
Eric began experiencing weakness in his left hand and twitching in his arm in 2019, but he kept it to himself until after he married his wife, Amanda. Exactly one month to the day after their wedding, Eric was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29.
"It was heartbreaking," Cody said. "It was one of the scariest, most traumatic events all in one. He just recently got married, and I just felt for him."
When the Patriots take on the Bills on Dec. 6, Cody will be doing so with Eric on his heart. Cody will be representing Axe ALS, an organization to support the Stevens family's efforts to raise awareness and funding for patient-center treatment for ALS patients.
My Cause My Cleats is an NFL initiative that allows players, coaches and staff to represent organizations that matter the most to them through customized cleats. After Week 13, all of the cleats will be available to buy through NFL Auction with all proceeds going to the respective non-profits.
ALS is a motor neuron disease that causes nerve cells to break down, reducing functionality in the body's muscles. Life expectancy is two to five years. There is no known cure and limited treatment options.
Since Eric's diagnosis, he and Amanda have dug their heels in to do everything they can to raise awareness and advocate for fast-tracking promising treatments that are in clinical trial. Amanda gave a TEDx Talk in January 2020 on this topic. They spent time in Washington D.C. advocating for the Access to Critical Therapies (ACT) for ALS bill, which was unanimously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in November of this year.
Cody said seeing both Eric and Amanda's strength in the face of this, it's hard not to get emotional.
"It's very inspiring," Cody said. "What he's been through to not to think only of himself but others; to join the fight along with those other families that are going through this that might not have gotten as much spotlight and walk through this with them ... it's hard not to get impacted. Once you learn their story and see their fight and passion and really their love out of this, it's truly inspiring."
Eric and Amanda designed the cleats that Cody will be wearing Monday night, and Cody said it meant a lot to be able to shine a light on their fight and Axe ALS through My Cause My Cleats. His hope is that if people tuning in see his cleats, they take a minute to learn about Eric and ALS.
"It's honor to represent him because he's the all-star in this and just been fighting so bravely and making an impact for so many people, even though he's the one going through the toughest fight," Cody said. "He's just brought so much hope to the ALS community. I just feel honored to be able to represent them and hopefully bring attention to them."
You can check out Cody's, as well as the rest of the participating Patriots, cleats in the gallery below.
For the sixth straight season, the New England Patriots are participating in the NFL's 'My Cause My Cleats' campaign, which gives both players and coaches the opportunity to wear cleats that are designed to promote a cause important to them. Here's a look at the Patriots' custom cleats.