Awareness • Early Detection • Treatment • Research • Survivorship

Remembering Keasha Rutledge Draft

Atlanta, GA – For most of us, December 27, is just another day on the calendar, but not for Chris Draft.  Having played linebacker in the NFL for more than 10 years, Draft was used to facing tough opponents, but nothing could have prepared him for the news he and then girlfriend, Keasha, received on December 27, 2010.  On that day, Keasha, a vibrant young woman who had never smoked, was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer.  Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Chris and Keasha decided to fight back, and on November, 27, 2011, standing hand-in-hand, they launched Team Draft at their wedding.  A month later, on December 27, 2011—one year to the day after her diagnosis—Keasha lost her courageous battle and died at the age of 38.

Lakeasha Monique Rutledge Draft courageously faced lung cancer, showing us all with every breath that we all need to hold onto life and love with both hands for as long as we can. Not just an inspiration, but a light, and a force that led the way with a beautiful, sweet smile and bright shining eyes that both belied the pure steel of her strength and determination.

Strong is too pale, too shallow and too small of a word to describe Keasha’s vibrancy… Quite simply, she was ferocious. She fiercely held onto life, and love with a forcefulness that was absolutely awe-inspiring and completely breathtaking.

Keasha’s spirit and legacy live on through Team Draft’s National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer—a public awareness campaign dedicated to exposing the true nature of the disease, and to sharing the hope that now exists for those battling the disease.  This year, Team Draft is taking that Campaign to the next level by creating a unique funding challenge centered around the biggest event in sports—the Super Bowl.


“The day my wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, she made the decision to live each day to the fullest,” says Draft. He goes on to explain that “when you’re in what is literally a life and death struggle like Keasha and I were in, you realize moments matter,”—moments like the trip Chris and Keasha took to Dallas to watch the Super Bowl shortly after her diagnosis.  “It was something she had always wanted to do,” says Draft, “and being with her at that game is a memory I will cherish forever.”  Now, Team Draft is giving other lung cancer survivors the opportunity to create similar memories through its Super Bowl Challenge.


The Super Bowl Challenge gives lung cancer survivors the opportunity to compete against one another to raise funds in support of Team Draft’s National Campaign.  The lung cancer survivor whose team raises the most money byJanuary 1, 2015, will represent Team Draft in Arizona during Super Bowl week.  The winner will receive airfare for two, hotel accommodations for four nights, and 2 tickets to the game.  In addition, the winner and a guest will meet legendary players from all 32 NFL teams, including several Hall of Famers, while enjoying dishes prepared by some of the best chefs in the country when they join Team Draft at the 24th annual Taste of the NFL on the night before the big game. But the Super Bowl Challenge is about more than creating a unique experience for the wining survivors.  It is about raising critical public awareness of this deadly, but misunderstood disease.


The survivors and physicians battling lung cancer face a unique challenge due in large part to the fact that “[l]ung cancer carries a stigma almost unheard of with any other deadly disease, hindering the unconditional support and investment of resources afforded to patients with other serious conditions.”[1]  This stigma is the result of widely held belief that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease”—a misconception that “researchers and advocates agree . . . contributes to the underfunding of research on the disease.”[2]  Team Draft’s Super Bowl Challenge is designated to address the research funding gap and “smoker’s disease” stigma by attacking the underlying problem of a lack of public awareness about lung cancer.


As Draft explains, “the Super Bowl Challenge gives us a unique opportunity to use the overwhelming media coverage surrounding the Super Bowl as a platform to raise critical public awareness about lung cancer on an international level.”  “With the game as a backdrop, we can use each survivor’s story to weave a broader narrative about the state of lung cancer and the hope that now exists for those battling the disease thanks to new detection techniques and innovative treatments,” he adds.


To join Team Draft’s fight to tackle lung cancer, visit