Denver Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer wears a t-shirt bearing his initials and personal logo, at the NFL football team's training facility in Englewood, Colo., Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Latimer, whose father died of cancer, plans to sell the t-shirts on h
Brennan Linsley
October 03, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) When Denver Broncos receiver Cody Latimer was 11, his father was diagnosed with colon cancer.

The two had not lived together since his parents divorced when Latimer was a toddler. After surgery and chemotherapy, Colby Latimer became a bigger part of his son's life: picking up Cody from school, taking him out for pizza and playing basketball together.

Cody didn't notice his dad losing weight. The older Latimer was a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker at Bowling Green until his junior year when bi-polar disorder and manic depression ended his college career.

Cody doesn't remember the whites of his dad's eyes starting to turn yellow. Doctors thought it was hepatitis. But when they went in to check on his liver, they found the cancer had returned.

Colby Latimer was 38 when he died in 2005.

Cody, then 12, lost the father he'd only just found.

''He just came around like every day that last year. Me and him grew real close,'' Latimer recalled. ''And then he was just gone. That's why it hurt so much.''

In his last year, Colby Latimer showered his son with love and never talked about his own health.

''His dad was just one of those people that never complained about anything,'' said Tonya Dunson, Latimer's mother. ''He always saw the best in everything. He would tell you everything was going to be OK.''

Latimer inherited his father's athleticism, only he figured his future was on the hardwood. Although one of his high school teammates was Adreian Payne, who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was Latimer who led Dayton Jefferson Township to a small-school Ohio state title in his junior year.

''I thought I was going NBA,'' Latimer said.

His mother encouraged him to play football. She saw a lot of Colby in her son and thought he could transfer his basketball skills to the football field.

''He wanted to play pro sports, but my gut feeling was he had a better chance of doing that playing football,'' she said.

Because there were only 13 other players on the football team at the 225-student school, Latimer played safety, linebacker, wide receiver, running back and even punter.

''I never got off the field,'' he said. ''My senior year, I started getting a lot of scholarship offers for defense, which was crazy.''

Michigan State wanted him as a safety, Ball State as a linebacker.

''But I wanted to catch touchdowns,'' Latimer said.

So, he chose Indiana.

After a standout career for the Hoosiers, the Broncos drafted Latimer in the second round in 2014.

Earlier this year, another family member died of cancer. His mother's aunt, Ana ''Lala'' Vigay, who looked after Latimer and his little brother when their mother was working full-time and going to school, died at 73.

''Cancer runs on both sides of my family,'' said Latimer, who spends some of his off days visiting young cancer patients.

He also raises money for the American Cancer Society by donating proceeds from T-shirt sales on his personal website that he launched this summer.

Like his career, his cancer awareness and fundraising efforts are just getting started.

''It's just going to be bigger,'' he said. ''I just got to wait until I get a bigger name.''

He's working on that.

Latimer received an invitation to Peyton Manning's annual passing camp at Duke this spring and got plenty of snaps with the starters during Demaryius Thomas's protracted contract stalemate. So far this year, Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood have worked in the slot ahead of him.

The Broncos still believe the exceptionally sure-handed Latimer will start showing up on Sundays.

''He's a special young man,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''He's young in his career and handles himself tremendously. I know we're sitting here and want things to go faster for him football-wise and they will happen because he's made of the right stuff. He's got all his priorities in line.''

By playing in the NFL, Latimer is honoring his mother's wishes and his father's memory.

When he first tried football at his mother's request and realized he was good at it, ''I said, this is coming from him, this athleticism, because football wasn't my thing,'' Latimer said. ''I'm still raw at it now. I'm learning. But it was his legacy. He couldn't get this far, but I did.''


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