– Just over two years ago, Colorado lost one of our own sports legends. We all remember when Keli McGregor, President of the Colorado Rockies, died on April 20, 2010. A native of Iowa, McGregor was a star tight end for Colorado State University after attending Lakewood High School. A four-year starter for the Rams, McGregor was a three time All-Western Athletic Conference tight end from 1982-1984 and second team All-American tight end in 1984. Setting a single season record of 69 catches (1983), among other high ranking honors, McGregor was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
McGregor was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1985 (4th round, 110th overall pick) and played only two games before being released to the Indianapolis Colts. He later played for Seattle before retiring from football and earning a Masters degree in sports administration out of the University of Florida. In 1993 McGregor returned home to Colorado and was hired on to help establish our Colorado Rockies as a Senior Director of Operations. After being such a large part of an expanding organization, McGregor was named President of the Colorado Rockies in 2001. Over his last few years, before his untimely death, McGregor spent most of his time in helping build the new spring training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona.
McGregor’s death shocked all of Colorado, especially our sports communities. A physically and mentally healthy 47 year old sports star found dead. Tragedy. Shortly after his death an autopsy report revealed that McGregor died from a rare virus that infected his heart muscle causing lymphatic myocarditis. Okay…okay…layman’s terms…this rare virus that infected his heart muscle caused his heart to beat irregularly causing the heart muscles to become weak and ending in heart failure. Although this was the natural and immediate cause of death, McGregor tested positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
I scared you again didn’t I? You may not know CTE by its name but you have been hearing about it significantly throughout the NFL over the last two years. Caused mostly by repetitive brain injuries such as concussions, CTE is a degenerative brain disease found mostly in athletes, especially professional athletes. Since the 1920’s boxers have been known to test positive for CTE however it is a fairly new discovery in other athletes such as football and hockey players. Symptoms of CTE are not usually prevalent until later in life after trauma to the brain has ceased. Without going into a long drawn out explanation of what exactly CTE is I’ll just say it can cause psychotic and depressive behavior, memory loss, and initial signs of Parkinson’s before full blown dementia sets in for the final stage. Testing for CTE is extremely complicated as it is best tested after death by dissection of the brain. Brain imaging can be conducted prior to death however it does not give good staging or severity of the disease. Brain biopsies can also be conducted however death is a risk for this type of testing. Therefore, post mortem testing has been the most effective in the research of CTE. Since 2008 autopsies have revealed positive CTE tests in numerous NFL football starts including Detroit Lions lineman Lou Creekmur, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, and yes, our own Keli McGregor.
While watching a report on ESPN one day about debilitating depression in former NFL players, McGregor became captivated by CTE research. Only suffering minimal concussions throughout college, McGregor had shown no signs or symptoms of CTE. It was then that McGregor decided to contribute to an upcoming research that would help generation after generation. Upon his death McGregor requested that his brain and spinal cord be donated to The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) located at Boston University School of Medicine. McGregor’s wishes were acknowledged upon his death in April 2010. After results for CTE testing came back positive, widow Lori McGregor knew exactly why Keli died from a rare viral infection. No, CTE did not cause the infection to his heart and did not cause his immediate death. To Lori and their children they knew Keli had been taken to assist in the research of such an ugly disease in today’s all-star athletes.
Keli McGregor will never be forgotten. His initials painted on the baseball in right field at the training complex, his pictures still taped to lockers in the locker room, his incredible faith in the Colorado Rockies franchise, and now his generous contribution to the future of not only our professional athletes, but our own children will always remind us of the phenomenal person that he is and always will be. Thank you Keli McGregor.
Denver Sports by LadyLuck