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US goalie brings new attention to Tourettes

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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 11:33 am

A world-class athlete is using his new public role to speak of not just overcoming, but excelling with the neurological disorder known as Tourette’s syndrome.

Tim Howard is the anchor of the Team U.S.A. soccer team, and at age 35, he is still at the top of his game.

And at his former New Jersey high school, no one is surprised. "You could see the goalie in him, right, because he could anticipate where the ball was going to be next," says basketball coach Eddie Berheney.

Howard played basketball and soccer at North Brunswick High School. His yearbook quote senior year? "It will take a nation of millions to hold me back."

He went on to play Major League Soccer, and at age 23 was recruited by one of the best known sports teams in the world. "When Tim got the call from Manchester United, it was like a win for all of us. That was like, alright, our guy made it, and it was really cool to see."

For Howard, fame also meant responsibility. He lent his body to PETA for an anti-fur campaign, and turned a very personal struggle into advocacy.

Faith Rice is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Center for Tourettes Syndrome. "Tim called us one day and said he wanted to volunteer with the organization."

Howard was diagnosed with Tourettes as a child.

When he joined Manchester United, British tabloids ridiculed the goalie for the disorder. But in 2011 he talked about how it was an obstacle he never let stand in his way. "I may not make it, you know, but I don't want the reason to be Tourette's syndrome. And so it's something that I live with every day, and for me now, in my life, it's like breathing to me. If I woke up one day and didn't have Tourette’s syndrome, it would feel weird."

Howard has worked with children and their families and lends his name to its brand new Tim Howard Leadership Academy. "It's really important for these kids to have a hero - someone who has dealt with all of the things that they're dealing with and… has survived!"

And to the kids at North Brunswick High, Howard is a role model, too. "The same hallway that kid walks in is the hallway, Tim walked in. That locker may be Tim's locker. So all these kids have a direct connection, they can see what hard work can do…and it's right there on TV every other day!"

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