MASON CITY, Ia. — The sun pokes through the clouds as the Mason City football team works through another Tuesday practice. On this day, Seth Drumheller is working on his route-running. He’s told to run a hitch route, but before he lines up, he has a quick question.
“What’s that?” he asks.
An assistant coach walks Drumheller through it — sprint five yards, then stop, turn and look for the ball. Drumheller nods. The senior runs it multiple times over the next 10 minutes, each time better than the next. He hauls in a couple of catches, too.
Off to the side, head coach Matt Berkley smiles and tells a story.
Over the summer, Drumheller thought he might miss a few games this season. Once a month, usually on Fridays, he drives to Iowa City for chemotherapy treatments to combat acute lymphoblastic leukemia — cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He was diagnosed in January 2016, midway through his freshman year.
Now, after undergoing aggressive treatment and overcoming a host of other complications, the 18-year-old is not only playing football again but starting for the Mohawks this fall. Mason City’s school policy says that student-athletes who miss school on competition days can’t play, leaving Drumheller worried during those Fridays he had scheduled chemotherapy appointments.
But Berkley assured Drumheller that, with a doctor’s note, he can still play those games.
“I’m just amazed,” said Berkley, now in his fourth season as Mason City’s football coach. “It’s pretty inspiring to me, his story — just wanting to be part of a team. He pushes everybody to work harder.
“There’s a lot bigger things out there than just the game of football. I know we’ve struggled so far this season, but a football game is nothing compared to what he’s gone through.”