Roughly two years into his NFL career, Corey Liuget's life changed in an instant.
Two weeks after welcoming the birth of his son, Corey Jr., Liuget got news he never expected: his son was born with a heart defect.
"He had an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)," Liuget said. "He had holes on the bottom of his heart and the top of his heart was open. They did the surgery when he was six weeks old…. To have a surgery that young, to have (my son's) ribcage cracked open, so the doctors can go in and operate kind of scares you. I was in awe and I was shocked at first. When I first found out that my first child was going to have a heart condition, it caught me off guard. To be completely honest, it scared the heck out of me."
Liuget said the defect was discovered after his son was born and wasn't hereditary.
Now at four years old, Corey Jr. is happy and healthy. Despite going in for periodic checkups, Liuget's son can live life without any limitations.
"It's so rewarding to know I have a healthy, young son who is active. I don't have to be in the hospital with him; he's not ill. Some parents go through that every day and sit in the hospital with their kids. (I'm lucky) because my son is at home and playing around in the yard. I'm so thankful, blessed and fortunate that my child is okay and I don't have to be a parent who's concerned about seeing my child in the hospital every day."
Through the tough time, Liuget learned a lot about himself as a person and as a father. Since Corey Jr.'s birth, he's welcomed two daughters and has gained an appreciation for being present in the moment because you never know when life can change.
"It's given me a big appreciation for life because no one wants to see their child go through anything like that. To see him in so much pain and know that I couldn't help him was the worst part. You'd rather be in their position and let them sit where you're at. You'd rather take their place, feelings and everything they're going through and let them be the one who is healthy, fine and living life."
Despite facing adversity, Liuget has become an advocate for ending heart disease. This season, he's teamed up with the San Diego Chapter of the American Heart Association for the 25th anniversary Heart & Stroke Walk.
"I'm teaming up with people who care about the future. They care about tackling this cardiovascular disease that is affecting a lot of America's youth and older people. It just means a lot to me that we care about this problem and they're attacking this problem and trying to solve it."
In addition, Liuget is using his play on the field to help those off of it. For every sack he gets this season, he will donate an AED Machine and CPR training class to a local school in San Diego and he hopes to give out EKGs to local schools as well.
Click here for more information on the San Diego Heart & Stroke Walk.