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'I want to inspire people': Cancer diagnosis fuels Wayzata football player's drive to help others

Cancer will test everything about you, and how you respond can make all the difference in the world.

WAYZATA, Minn. — We all know cancer doesn't care who you are or who you love — there's no rhyme or reason for who gets sick and who doesn't.

Cancer will test everything about you, and how you respond can make all the difference in the world.

Case in point: football practice at Wayzata High School. It is Jack Simon's happy place.

“Jack's a competitor. He started for us as a sophomore. He's kind of somebody everybody likes to be around; he’s a joy to coach,” said Wayzata head coach Lambert Brown.

It means even more to coach No. 33 because it almost didn't happen.

“It was pretty scary,” said Simon, who is now a junior football player at Wayzata. “The night that it happened, they told us we had to rush to Children’s Hospital to get this checked out."

Doctors found a cancerous mass on Jack's chest back in April that turned out to be Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I mean, I had a lot of tears. [I was] scared; didn't know what was happening,” said Simon.

That's what happens when cancer turns your life upside-down: You get scared. But how you respond both mentally and physically sets the tone for how you recover.

And Jack's wasted little time.

“Jack has been a model of mental toughness and how to handle adversity,” said Brown.

“Trying to smile as much as I can. Smiling is contagious,” said Simon.

KARE 11's Randy Shaver first saw that smile when he coached Jack in 5th-grade travel basketball for Wayzata. He saw it again just a few weeks ago at his golf gala.

You see, Jack is on a mission to raise money and awareness through Tackle Cancer, a community fund that aims to raise money for cancer research.

“I want to inspire people with my story,” said Simon.

“How does that put the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Tackle Cancer campaign in perspective?” Shaver asked Brown.

“It hits home,” Brown said.

It sure does.

Jack's raised more than $8,000 and counting, but you won't hear him brag about it — and you certainly won't hear him use cancer as an excuse.

Not Jack.

“I'm just a kid playing football; there's nothing special about me,” said Simon. “I'm still out there, part of the team; don't want special treatment. I don't think I deserve anything more than other people deserve just because I'm going through a hard time."

Jack says former Gopher football player Casey O'Brien is his role model. Casey is in his sixth fight against osteosarcoma right now. But attitude is everything, and Jack has all the right stuff to get through cancer and anything else life may throw at him.

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