Former Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Lional “Jelly Roll” Dalton received the best news of his life last month and has decided to pay it forward.
Dalton signed as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan in 1998. From there, Dalton enjoyed a nine-year career in the NFL. He played for Baltimore (1998-2001), Denver (2002), Washington (2003), Kansas City (2004-2006) and Houston (2006) during that time.
During the Ravens’ Super Bowl season in 2000, Dalton served a backup role to defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. His career year came with the Chiefs in 2004, when he started 13 games and had four sacks.
Dalton, 46, has four children and lives with his wife, Tiffany, in Atlanta, but life took a turn for the worse in an instant. In January 2020, Dalton was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure and was put on dialysis immediately after his diagnosis. Dalton didn’t know how much time he had left.
“I got a note that some people die while waiting on dialysis and I didn’t know [if I was going to make it through],” Dalton said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 20.
According to the American Kidney Fund, the average wait time for a kidney in the United States is three to five years. However, with the help of his wife, Ravens fans and former teammates, Dalton kept his spirits high and persevered while he waited for the call.
“I got so much support online when I started talking about my story and the first person who tried to donate to me was a Ravens fan,” Dalton said. “It was just amazing, man. I didn’t think everybody remembered me like that. A lot of people still remember me.”
Eighteen grueling months passed by, but Dalton remained in high spirits, saying every day that a kidney donor was coming. Finally, Dalton received the call. The match just so happened to be in Baltimore.
“[Johns Hopkins Hospital] called me at 8:30 at night and told me they got a match,” Dalton said. “I got the first plane out of Atlanta to Baltimore, so it happened. It manifested. It was great, man.”
Dalton had successful surgery in Baltimore late August, but his mission didn’t stop there. When he was on dialysis, Dalton talked to others who were enduring the same fight as him. Some patients were on dialysis longer than the average time it takes to receive a new kidney as well. While hearing others stories, Dalton felt he needed to help.
“When I was on dialysis for the past two and a half years, I met a lot of people who became family who were also going,” Dalton said. “And I met a man who was actually doing dialysis for 30 years now, and the reason he didn’t get a transplant was because he couldn’t afford the medication [associated with the transplant]. The medication went from $200 to $500 a month.”
Dalton vowed to change the lives of people who faced a similar situation that he did. During the Ravens-Chiefs game Sept. 19, Dalton announced the launch of his nonprofit organization, Jellyroll Gift of Life. This organization is a way to help others in dialysis fight without having to worry about the burden of medical expenses.
“We decided, me and my wife, to create a nonprofit to help raise money to help people with those out-of-pocket expenses that they couldn’t afford and hopefully get them a transplant and we can help them pay for those medications to help some other people get life-saving kidney transplants,” Dalton said.
Dalton was thrilled to announce the launch of his nonprofit in Baltimore.
“A lot of great things happened for me in Baltimore and Baltimore just saved my life,” Dalton said. “This is home, man. This is the real home.”
For more information on his organization and to donate, visit jellyrollgiftoflife.org.
For more from Dalton, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens