- I’ll be wearing gold cleats on Sunday in support of increased funding for research into pediatric cancer. And for a young friend who’s beaten the disease more than once, and taught me some powerful lessons
You might notice some bright gold cleats in our game against Cleveland on Sunday. I mean, really bright. I’ll be wearing them. They’ll have CHILDREN DESERVE #MORETHAN4 on the side. This slogan is really important to me, because it’s really important to a friend of mine who’s beaten cancer multiple times. I’ll explain.
When I played at Ohio State, I was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Lombardi Award as a sophomore. That’s the award given to the best defensive lineman or linebacker in college football. The ceremony is in Houston, and when I went there, the candidates for the award went to visit some of the pediatric cancer patients at this great hospital for treating cancer, the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I met a bunch of kids there. I was happy I got to go, because maybe we can’t help millions of patients, but if we can put a smile on someone’s face, it’s worth it.
The next year, I got nominated again, and we took another trip to MD Anderson. A boy about 13 or 14 came up to me. I recognized him from the year before.
“You remember me?” he said.
“Of course I do,’’ I said … and I did.
His name was Sean. He was in for the second time, to fight his cancer. It was good seeing him, but it was horrible to see him here again.
We just started talking again. He’s a big Notre Dame football fan. We were about to play Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, so of course we did some trash-talking. I told him I was going to beat up on his Irish. He told me how bad they were going to beat us. I think on that visit, I basically spent almost all my time with him. It was a great conversation.
He showed me his TED talk. Here’s young teenager suffering from cancer, and he did a TED talk about it! That was amazing … how he could stand up there and talk to people and even crack jokes. He was so smart. He was not afraid. I just couldn’t believe it. The effort he was putting in, with his own life on the line, to try to help others, was just incredible. He really impacted me. I gave him my phone number, and we kept in touch.
I found myself thinking about him a lot. He educated me on a lot of things about cancer. He told me, “Did you know that out of all the money raised for cancer research, only four percent goes to pediatric cancer?’ That just shocked me. That is not my world at all. I never even thought of it. But being at that hospital, and seeing how many kids were sick there, I just thought how unfair that seemed. Four percent? Four percent? That just made a huge impact on me.
So Sean is in high school now. His story is in a good place now. He made his high school lacrosse team this year. He follows us, and he’s going to come to one of our games in December, when we got to Kansas City.
We’ve got this My Cause, My Cleats deal with the NFL now, where we can choose to put a cause we’re involved in on our cleats. So I asked Sean if he wanted to design my cleats this year. I think he was pretty excited about it. I connected him with my rep at Adidas, and I let Sean do whatever he wanted. You probably know breast cancer is pink. Pediatric cancer is gold. So they came up with these cleats, and one thing I know is I’ll get noticed on Sunday against the Browns. Look at them:
It’s Sean’s message to the cancer community: CHILDREN DESERVE #MORETHAN4. I loved it. I think it’s fantastic. And I hope America gets to see his message from coast to coast.
When I sent Sean the final pictures, he was so excited. He put it up on his Instagram page, and I hope it made him happy.
For me, knowing Sean led me to do this, and it made me realize how fortunate I am. Your perspective on life changes when you meet people going through a real struggle. That’s why I’m lucky I met Sean—and lucky to have learned some important lessons from him.
I hope I can get a sack Sunday. I want those cleats on every highlight show on TV.
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