Sept. 11, 2007
Senior offensive tackle Shannon Boatman has it all. He is one of the most experienced starters for the nationally ranked Seminole football team and is working toward earning his degree in social science. His talents have allowed him to be successful, both academically and athletically, throughout his life. He was a star basketball and football player in high school, a First-Team All-American in junior college and is now vying to become a two-year starter at Florida State. His talents are beginning to be noticed by NFL scouts.
He also has Type 1 diabetes.
Boatman was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 17 years old and a junior in high school. Of the 20.8 million people in the United States believed to have diabetes, five to 10 percent have Type 1. Boatman's body is unable to produce insulin. It is a lifelong disease that can increase the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and other serious complications. The disease can be controlled by diet, limiting weight gain and exercising Boatman also controls the disease with insulin injections and medications which he must take every morning as soon as he wakes up.
"Being diagnosed with diabetes when I was 17 years old was the last thing I ever thought would happen to me," said Boatman. "I was very active in high school; I played basketball and football and I wasn't very heavy. I was around 280 pounds and I was tall. I was big but I didn't consider myself a big person. I was in sports and it just came on me."
Type 1 diabetes can be developed at any age, most commonly in childhood or adolescence. It's an inherited trait, with several environmental factors contributing, and there's nothing you can do to lower your risk of getting Type 1 diabetes. Symptoms usually come on suddenly, and may include thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and fatigue. Boatman recalls suffering from many of those symptoms before learning he had developed the disease and knew growing up that he was living with several risk factors over which he had not control. One of those risk factors - heredity - meant that he was predisposed to develop the disease.
That was true in Boatman's case. His father, Anthony, had been diagnosed and had been living with the disease for five years and his brother Anthony, Jr., has since developed the disease.
"My dad was first diagnosed with it, I was next and my brother came afterwards," said Boatman. "Since we are a big family, that's where I think it came from. My brother is 6-5 and 320 pounds and used to play football. My dad is also a pretty big man."
While growing up, Boatman remembers watching his father control the disease through proper diet, living a healthier lifestyle and constant insulin injections.
"Watching my dad kind of prepared me for diabetes because I saw what he had to go through," said Boatman. "I saw how consistently he monitored himself to make sure he stayed healthy. He had to make sure he stayed healthy for us to make sure he provided for us as a family."
Boatman, though, was frightened when he was diagnosed with the disease.
"It scared me because the first thing on my mind was how I was going to die," Boatman said. "But when I began to think about it, getting the disease forced me to change how I did things. I eat healthier now and I don't need to eat all of that junk food like pizza and hamburgers. It's really good for your body if you take care of yourself."
Taking care of himself to remain in the Seminoles' starting lineup was something he was forced to do when Rick Trickett became Florida State's offensive line coach in January of 2007. A veteran coach who is recognized as one of the top teachers in the country, Trickett demanded that his linemen become healthier and better conditioned.
He wanted his players to lose their extra weight and increase their strength.
Boatman, who said he weighed more than 350 pounds as a freshman at Tyler Junior College, weighed nearly 335 pounds when Trickett took over and found himself on the third team on the depth chart at the end of spring practice. After starting all 13 games at the right tackle position during the 2006 season, he began the 2007 season with a new body frame (309 pounds) and a new position (right guard).
"I'm really proud of Shannon especially the way he has worked to get his weight down," said Trickett. "He didn't miss a practice in pre-season camp and he's done a great job at working with the other linemen to become a cohesive unit. He's becoming much more consistent and by doing that he will become a better player. As he becomes more consistent with his play he will show that he has the ability to go to the next level."
Both on and off the field, Boatman also works closely with Florida State's Director of Sports Medicine Randy Oravetz who pays special attention to him on a daily basis.
"When Shannon came out of junior college he hadn't been taking care of himself," said Oravetz. "Our goal was to try to get everything under control in order to understand what this was going to lead to. Over the course of the last year or two he has really become more dependable about taking his medicine and taking better care of himself. I think we have his diet a little bit modified now - it is better for him. He still has to take insulin and he has to take some medicine to keep things even."
Boatman has lost nearly 50 pounds and now favors chicken sandwiches instead of hamburgers. He has cut his meals in half and enters his final collegiate season in the best shape of his life. He wants to live a long and happy life and be around to experience everything life has in store for him.
Shannon Boatman certainly has it all - and has the biggest challenge of his life well under control.
By Chuck Walsh Florida State University Associate Director of Sports Information