Some football players are worried about playing time. Some might be worried about waving to their friends in the stands. Still others are thinking about where they might go to eat after the game.
The only thing Michael Miller has been concerned about the last three weeks, as he was taking radiation treatments for brain cancer, was getting back on the football field. None of the other stuff really mattered.
Miller is a 14-year-old freshman in the football program at Battle Creek Central. And despite his life-threatening medical issues, Miller had a huge smile on his face this week on the C.W. Post practice field as he talked about getting to play football again with his teammates instead of driving every day to Ann Arbor to see another group of faceless doctors about the cancer cells in his brain.
“All I have thought about the last three weeks was to get out here again on this field,” Miller said earlier this week. “That kept me going. Because without football I have nothing. That’s how it has been from the start. When they first told me I had brain cancer I was confused and frustrated and my first thoughts were, ‘Can I still play?’ And now, this week I am going to get to play again.”
Miller was scheduled to play for the BCC freshman team on Thursday.
Friday night, he won’t be playing, but he will be on the sidelines again. He will join the varsity as Battle Creek Central will hold its Gray/Pink Game in his honor, raising money for the Miller family in its fight against his brain cancer.
BCC will wear new special gray-and-pink uniforms to help raise money for their young teammate. Each of the Bearcats varsity players was asked to go out and get a sponsor for their uniform and put that sponsor’s name on the back. The money raised from that, which is now more than $3,000, will go to the Miller family to help with medical bills. There will also be T-shirts for sale at the game on Friday and donation buckets, with the proceeds also going to the Miller family.
The idea, being organized by BCC coach Lorin Granger, is an emotional lift for the Miller family.
“It’s just amazing,” said Michael’s mom, Tracy Miller. “Coach Granger is my hero. He is such a really good guy. All the coaches have been awesome through all of this, but Coach Granger has spearheaded this. When he called me and said he wanted to do this, I just bawled.
“We are so blessed. And I say that at a time when we have this horrible thing happening in our lives. But we are so blessed with our family and friends and the support of the Battle Creek Central football program. It’s all been amazing.”
Granger said the inspiration to have such a game was easy to come by.
“What he is doing is very inspiring to all of us,” Granger said. “He came to us three weeks ago and said he couldn’t play anymore because he was losing his balance and having trouble as he was going through radiation treatments. But those treatments are over and he is feeling better and he came out this week and wanted to play.
“He wants to be part of the football team. That is helping him get through this. This is a brotherhood, this is a family and we are here to help him keep fighting. I think it is good to be around more people who love him and that’s what is great about football, it allows you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. When you are going through a tough time like that, that’s what you need sometimes.”
Football has helped Miller get through the toughest part of his young life. Miller, who plays on the offensive and defensive line, has been playing football since third grade and has looked forward to every fall for the start of his favorite season.
“I was really worried that I wouldn’t get to play football ever again. Football is the only thing I really do, it’s everything to me so I wanted to play again this year,” Miller said. “I get to use football to help get my anger out about what’s happening to me. Sometimes I wonder, why is this happening to me. But in the end I try not to feel bad for myself because that won’t change anything. So I look to get those feelings out of my head and playing football helps me do that.”
The Gray/Pink game comes from something Tracy Miller told Granger in the summer when they were talking about doing this game, which was ‘Gray Matters as much as Pink’ – a turn of a phrase regarding the gray matter of the brain and pink being the color used in October in regards to it being cancer awareness month.
“The kids have wanted to do something like this for a few years, but mostly it was because they wanted to wear new uniforms with pink in them. I am not a big fan of that unless we were going to be supporting a cause,” Granger said. “But when Michael was diagnosed with cancer, we thought that would be the cause we could support and we decided to do this and raise the money to give to the family.”
The entire football program, at all three levels, is now behind the Gray/Pink Game and behind efforts to help Miller fight his brain cancer. That alone seems to have helped.
“The whole team has been behind me, guys talk to me about it. The first game I missed they said they were playing that game for me,” Miller said. “They say I inspire them. But for me, all of this has inspired me. To have the whole football team behind me, I know I am not going through this alone.”
Contact Bill Broderick 269-966-0678 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @billbroderick