•First, he tackled cancer. Tackling Italy was no problem.
Christopher Jones of the Lighthouse Christian Chargers homeschool football team took up the game as a junior and joined coach David Staley’s squad for a run to back-to-back National Homeschool Football Association championships.
The Chargers’ defensive captain missed three starts late in his senior season, however. He was at the games and in uniform, but wasn’t cleared to play because he’d been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, testicular cancer in the most common cancer diagnosis in males ages 15-34. It is commonly treated with surgery, which Jones underwent in October. It can also be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
According to the American Cancer Society, a man’s chance of contracting testicular cancer in his lifetime is 1 in 263. Almost half of the cases occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34.
But Jones is not only winning his battle against cancer, he’s been able to get back on the football field. Just two weeks ago, he participated in an all-star game in Italy.
Jones vs. Cancer
Jones went to a doctor on Oct. 15 after detecting an irregularity during self-examination. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had surgery scheduled immediately.
On the day of the operation, Jones talked his father, Scott Jones, into driving him to Evergreen Church, where the Chargers practice on a bumpy field of cut prairie grass.
“His surgery was at 11 a.m., they released him at 5:30 p.m. because he was doing well, and he wanted to go to practice. He didn’t want to go home,” Scott Jones said. “All the teammates wanted to come to him at the car. He said, ‘Dad I’m a team captain, I want to be an encourager to these guys.'”
Christopher Jones continues to encourage. While he makes periodic visits to doctors and specialists, his body is cancer free. He still works out with some of his Lighthouse Christian teammates, including fellow captain Garrett Bills, who committed to Evangel University to play long snapper.
Jones says he is healthier now than he was in the middle of football season.
“Personally I’ve never felt better,” Jones said. “I’ve been hitting the gym hard, running consistently, making sure I lift weights.”
Jones’ teammates and family rallied around him as he underwent surgery. Scott Jones says as a father, he wasn’t as afraid as he thought he would be when confronted with a cancer battle.
“I’ll be as honest with you as I can, we should have had a lot of fear but we didn’t,” Scott Jones said. “We know that God does everything for a reason and purpose.”
Christopher Jones made a decision to enroll at Azusa Pacific University in California. He has a standing offer to walk on to the school’s NCAA Division II football team.
Jones wants to major in marketing, and is set on attaining a master’s degree.
“I’m thinking either marketing management or marketing research would be my specialty,” Jones said.
Lighthouse Christian vs. Christ Prep
Without Jones on defense, Lighthouse Christian suffered a pair of late-season losses, including a 30-14 loss to Christ Prep Academy of Lenexa, Kansas.
The Chargers almost didn’t qualify to defend their title at the National Homeschool Football Championships.
“After losing that game, we were able to stay in as the fourth seed, which is the lowest seed,” Jones said.
In Panama City, Florida, the Chargers beat Central Virginia Homeschool to set up a championship showdown with Christ Prep. About six weeks after his surgery, Jones got the rematch he’d been aching for.
“It was amazing, I was just completely full of gratitude to the Lord for the quick healing,” Jones said. “I was super fired up and ready to hit it hard. I played with 100-percent intensity.”
The Chargers beat Christ Prep 21-7 to win the homeschool football national championship.
USA vs. Italy
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive end who drove an hour and 10 minutes one way from Mansfield to attend practices accepted a chance to play in Rome for the American Football Worldwide Elite program.
“I was so grateful to God for this opportunity that he gave me to go across seas and to play in this game,” Jones said.
An American squad of 42 high school seniors defeated an Italian national team 73-7 in the IFL Magazine Bowl April 4. Jones played defensive tackle and recovered a fumble.
“We showed them how American football is played, I’ll just say that,” Jones said. “We met after the game. I expected (the Italian players) to have their heads hanging and stuff, but they were excited to meet us.”
Jones says the Americans and Italians engaged in the European sports custom of trading some apparel. Jones got to know some of the Italians and learned of how they took up American football.
“A lot of them just start football in high school or afterwards,” Jones said. “I was impressed by their drive, their enthusiasm.”
When he finishes his homeschool studies, Jones will attend Azusa Pacific on an academic scholarship. He befriended some of the Italian national team players on Facebook and tracked their recent win against Spain.
American Cancer Society facts on testicular cancer
•About 8,430 men will be diagnosed by the end of 2015.
•About 380 men will die of testicular cancer this year
•The disease is more prevalent in young men, but about 7 percent of cases occur in children and teens
•Testicular cancer is considered to be very treatable, with 1 in 5,000 cases resulting in death
•Experts recommend monthly self-examinations