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AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

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AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

For just a moment, former Denver Broncos standout Austin ``Goose'' Gonsoulin didn't think about the open-heart surgery he underwent a few weeks ago or the cancer that has spread throughout his body.

For a brief instant, the American Football League All Star almost felt like a safety again, transported back to a time when he used to make interceptions like this.

The 74-year-old Gonsoulin had just woken from a nap on the couch when he caught a flash across his television screen: Denver cornerback Chris Harris stepping in front of a pass and racing down the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown against Baltimore last Sunday.

Gonsoulin gawked at each step, his chest hurting from sitting up so suddenly and his heart thumping with enthusiasm.

``I remember exactly what that feels like,'' said Gonsoulin, who's known around the Mile High City as an ``Original Bronco'' after being acquired in a trade before the team's first season in 1960. ``Such a great feeling when you're in the open like that.''

Gonsoulin broke into a robust laugh as he chatted on the phone from his home in Beaumont, Texas.

``Only, I couldn't have run that far,'' he said. ``That's a long, long way.''

These days, Gonsoulin feels pretty good, even with all his health concerns.

Just last month, he had a heart attack that led to quadruple bypass surgery.

That was on top of this: Nearly a year ago he went in for an exam and there, all over the X-ray, was the return of his cancer. Only this time it appeared in his ribs, collar bone and shoulders. It was near his knees, back and hips. It showed up along his legs and arms, too.

``I lit up like a Christmas tree,'' he said. ``Doctors made it sound like I wasn't going to last much longer.

``But I'm still here.''

And enjoying the simple pleasures like gloating about his grandkids, hanging out with his wife of nearly 50 years and watching his beloved Broncos.

``That Peyton Manning is pretty good, huh?'' Gonsoulin said.

And so was Gonsoulin back in his day.

After a standout career at Baylor University, Gonsoulin was picked in the AFL draft by the Dallas Texans, who then shipped him to the Broncos for fullback Jack Spikes in the team's first trade. Gonsoulin showed up at his first camp in `60 along with 120 other guys, some of whom were truck drivers and oil field workers, and was concerned about making the roster.

He instantly shined as he had 11 interceptions his rookie season, which remains a Broncos record. Gonsoulin also played in five All-Star games - would've been six, but one of the games was canceled - and was enshrined in the team's Ring of Fame in 1984.

His fear of being cut, though, led him to pack up all of his clothes from his apartment for every road game.

``Just in case,'' said Gonsoulin, who also played one season with San Francisco after seven seasons in Denver. ``If they ever said, `You're not coming back,' well, at least I had my stuff, right?''

Like he really had anything to worry about. He snared the AFL's first interception against Boston and finished his Broncos career as the former league's all-time leader with 43.

Only Steve Foley has more interceptions (44) in a Denver uniform, but Champ Bailey is closing with 34. As he works his way up the all-time list, Bailey is learning more and more about Gonsoulin.

``From what I understand, he was a great pro,'' Bailey said. ``Obviously, he's one of the best to play here.''

Very true. Gonsoulin once had four interceptions in a game against Buffalo and another three off Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson.

``Lenny was so mad. He walked by at halftime and swore at me,'' Gonsoulin recounted.

Dawson wouldn't be the only quarterback cursing Gonsoulin's name. The durable defensive back also picked off the likes of George Blanda, Jack Kemp and John Hadl.

The toughest receiver he ever faced? Easy, Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers.

``Especially when he was in the slot,'' Gonsoulin said.

Over his career, Gonsoulin dished out plenty of bone-jarring hits.

He took a few, too. Like when he tried to tackle Houston Oilers running back Billy Cannon on a swing pass. Gonsoulin went low and hit his helmet on Cannon's knee. Not only was Gonsoulin knocked out, he swallowed his tongue.

He was choking on the field and yet no one could pry open his jaw.

Just when trainers were ready to break his teeth to save him, teammate Bud McFadin rushed over and forced his mouth open enough to retrieve Gonsoulin's tongue. When Gonsoulin woke up in the ambulance a little while later, he was still in uniform and wondering what had happened.

Two days later, Gonsoulin was back on the field.

He's got quite a few ailments from his playing days. His collar bone juts out from an injury that didn't heal properly and his knees constantly ache.

Oh, and then there are the concussions. There's no telling how many he suffered in his career.

``A lot of times you hit someone hard and you'd be dazed on sideline,'' said Gonsoulin, who operated a construction company after his football career. ``They'd be like, `What's your name? Where are you from?' You simply take some smelling salts and go back in.''

That's why he got involved in a lawsuit against the NFL. He said he's joined a suit that claims the league concealed and misrepresented the neurological risks of concussions.

``More than anything, I don't think (the league) really took care of us back then,'' Gonsoulin said. ``My memory is fading and I don't know if it's because of the concussions. Having this cancer doesn't help, of course, but I think playing football did hurt my memory.

``Still, I'm lucky to be in the shape I'm in now.''

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Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-2) head to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada after an overtime/shootout loss against the Florida Panthers last Friday. 

The Caps are determined to avoid the devastation they felt in the first period when they gave away four goals to the Panthers. They will need to focus in the power plays and avoid penalties at all costs.

Many fans were looking forward to the reunion with former player Jay Beagle, who is now centerman for the Canucks, but he is unfortunately out on injury. However you can look out for Caps Nic Dowd, who will have his own homecoming game against his former team. 

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Canucks which takes place at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.
 

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 8 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

When: Monday, October 22 at 10:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Canucks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Canucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS SCHEDULE

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:00 PM: Capitals vs. Canucks
12:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lars Eller, F, Capitals: In his last game, he had a three-point night with three assists. He is a messaive help and shined within the trio of Vrana and Connoly on Friday.

Tim Schaller, F, Canucks: He was struggling in the preseason but came back with a vengeance. He assisted with a penatly kill and is a key component in fourth line. 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

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Wizards vs. Trail Blazers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Trail Blazers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards head to the West Coast to open a road swing against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

Wizards (0-2) are looking for their first win when the head into Portland to face Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers (2-0).

After this game, the Wizards have a tough stretch ahead of them before playing in D.C. again, playing at: Golden State, Sacramento, LA (Lakers) and Memphis.

WIZARDS vs. TRAIL BLAZERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Miami Heat, 2018 NBA regular season Game 3
Where: Moda Center, Portland, Ore.
When: 10:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Trail Blazers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Trail Blazers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. TRAIL BLAZERS TV SCHEDULE

8:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

9:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

10:00 PM: Wizards @ Portland Trail Blazers (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard remains day-to-day with a back injury.
Trail Blazers: None

WIZARDS vs. BLAZERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards: After becoming the Wizards franchise leader in 3 points on Saturday, it is likely Beal will have a lot to prove to help the team get its first win.

Otto Porter, Jr., Wizards: Porter has had a slow start, so will he take more shots in Portland?

Damian Lillard, Portland: The Blazers' star is leading the way this season averaging 28.5 ppg and 6.5 assists per game. 

WIZARDS vs. BLAZERS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 111 games
Regular Season Record: Blazers lead 57-54
Last Meeting: Wizards won 106-92 in December 2017