Five months after stroke, Lee Corso, 74, still keeps fans amused and informed on ESPN

Oct 17 2009 - 10:06pm

Since Lee Corso worked ESPN's College Gameday from the Texas-Oklahoma game last year, he temporarily lost his speech and his ability to read as well as partial use of his right arm and leg.

Here's how Corso told the story Friday: "It was exactly five months ago on May 16. I went out to get the newspaper. I picked it up at the end of the driveway and started to feel lightheaded. I walked back in the house, and I couldn't talk. I had a problem with my right hand. I had no symptoms at all, and then it hit me. Boom.

"I had a stroke," he said.

Corso spent the next three days in intensive care and a total of a week in the hospital. When he went home, all he had to do was learn to speak and read and write again.

"I'm not quite 100 percent," he said. "No, I am 100 percent, but getting the words from my mind to my mouth is another thing."

Corso, 74, still practices writing twice a day for 30 minutes and runs a gauntlet of verbal exercises. His speech is not quite back at the loud, frenzied Corsonian pitch that made him a TV star.

He's more Lee-lite. But ESPN has helped every step of the way. It stuck by him and lessened his workload, allowing him to skip what had been regular Friday appearances on SportsCenter.

"They've been wonderful," Corso said.

Corso has been back on the GameDay set since its season opened Sept. 5. His enthusiasm and love for his job remains.

"Sept. 5th," Corso said. "That date motivated me throughout my therapy. I had to be back at work on the first Saturday of the season."

Corso, a GameDay fixture since 1989, opened the season in Atlanta for Alabama-Virginia Tech. Subsequent Saturdays have taken him to Ohio State, Texas, Penn State, Boston College and LSU. Saturday, at 9 a.m., he's back at Fair Park for Texas-Oklahoma.

"I think it's going terrific," he said. "I feel terrific."

Asked if he thought about retiring and cutting down travel, Corso gave a rare one-word answer. "Never," he said.

Why not?

"I have an enthusiasm for life," he said. "I think I still have something to offer on the show."

Corso then reminded that he missed picking the winner of the Texas-OU game each of the last three years.

"Last year I put a Sooner hat on and shot the shotgun, and Oklahoma still lost," he said. "That's not the way to go."

Corso didn't say which team he likes on Saturday. His pick, as always, will come near the end of the two-hour GameDay. Then he'll walk across an esplanade into the Cotton Bowl and watch to see if he breaks his losing streak.

He'll watch the game from the Oklahoma sideline because he thinks it will be less crowded.

"Standing," he said. "I stand and watch the game. I'm still standing."

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