MINNEAPOLIS - This fall, almost 140 high school football teams across Minnesota have hosted or will host a "Tackle Cancer" game to raise money for cancer research and patient aid.
Maybe, nowhere does this program mean more than at DeLaSalle.
The DeLaSalle Islanders are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A football. There's no doubt this team plays with heart, but for some, football also helps heal their hearts.
"She was the closest person in my life," said offensive lineman Chad Fahning lost his Mom to multiple myeloma cancer this year after a long seven-year fight.
"My mom was pretty darn competitive," he said.
Chad, at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 280 pounds, is a Division 1 prospect and his mom was his biggest cheerleader.
"It was tough that first day coming back home to an empty house," he said.
Chad's teammate, center Diamond Hollins lost his father to lung cancer in May.
His passing forced Diamond to be more focused and independent, and he relishes his dad's attitude towards sports.
"He just told me to do my best and he would just stick by me no matter what the result," Diamond said.
And linebacker Cody Vaughn lost his mother when he was 12. She died of colon cancer and told her young son that he had to be strong. Cody is that, and more.
"I just think about my mom and how strong she was and it's like, I can't give up," Vaughn said.
It's not hard to see why the "Tackle Cancer" program is so important to DeLaSalle, but there's more.
DeLaSalle head coach Sean McMenomy knows that all too well.
When Sean was 12-years-old, his older brother, Gene, died of cancer. It was heartbreaking then and it still is now.
"Three weeks before he died we went down to the farm and went duck hunting, it's one of the memories obviously I keep in my heart," McMenomy said. "I know exactly the spot. I know what we did. I know what we talked about, but it was our closure, short time after that he was gone."
That's why "Tackle Cancer" means so much to the Islanders. Football is important, but this is real life.
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