Former St. Joseph High School punters Michael Cintron and Bryan Rafano, who are currently playing at Rutgers University and Wagner College, respectively, have taken their fight against breast cancer to the football field in honor of their mothers, who have both twice battled the disease.
Rafano, a junior from South River, averaged a career-high 47.2 yards over nine punts in a loss at Brigham Young University last weekend. Cintron is a redshirt freshman from Piscataway.
Cintron’s mother, Jeanine, has won two battles with breast cancer, while Rafano’s mother, Donna, is currently fighting her second bout with the disease.
During Wagner’s game against Duquesne on Saturday, the Seahawks will adorn their uniforms with pink ribbons in honor of Rafano’s mother and all fighting the disease on the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Earlier this month, Cintron had a barber shave the breast cancer awareness ribbon in the back of his head and dyed it pink.
“My mom and I have a goal for the rest of the year that, while she’s fighting her battle with breast cancer, I’m also fighting the battle on the field,” Rafano told Wagner College Assistant Athletics Director John Beisser during an interview for a story about the Seahawks punter that appeared on the school’s website Friday afternoon.
According to Beisser’s report, Donna Rafano was first diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. Radiation treatments kept the disease at bay, but it returned five months ago, requiring surgery.
Cintron told Rutgers Athletics Senior Director of Digital Media Tom Luicci for a story that appeared on ScarletKnights.com that his mother is now in remission.
“I just thought that after everything she went through the least I could do is show a breast cancer ribbon on my head for all of the pain and all of the treatments she went through,” Cintron told Luicci. “She fought it for several years and then it came back and she fought it again. It just showed me how strong of a person she was.”
St. Joseph head football coach Casey Ransone praised Cintron and Rafano for their efforts to heighten breast cancer awareness, adding that he is not surprised.
“It’s a testament to the kind of people they are,” Ransone said. “That’s why they’ve been so successful and will continue to be successful later on in life.”
Ransone said Cintron is “one of his favorite kids” and “everything he has gotten he has earned.”
He said Rafano returned after graduating from St. Joseph to work with the Falcons’ kickers and punters, most recently coming back to the Metuchen-based parochial school four months ago to train standout Jon Sot.
“He would come down here three times a week on his own accord,” Ransone said of Rafano. “There’s no better kid to have around, character-wise.”