02
Oct
09

Another feelgood story from the world of youth sports

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1 Response to “Another feelgood story from the world of youth sports”


  1. October 2, 2009 at 8:17 AM

    Copyright 2009 The Hartford Courant Company
    All Rights Reserved
    Hartford Courant (Connecticut)

    September 30, 2009 Wednesday
    FINAL – 5 EDITION

    SECTION: CTSPORTS; Pg. B1

    HEADLINE: AUDIBLE FROM THE HEART;
    ‘LET’S GET THE KID A TOUCHDOWN,’ AND A LESSON IN HUMANITY PLAYS OUT;
    HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

    BYLINE: JEFF JACOBS jjacobs@courant.com

    The plan was to have Nick Reardon punt.

    Wolcott Tech’s Jamie Coty approached Brett Quinion before his team faced Avon Saturday in Torrington and, one coach to another, Coty had a favor to ask. Nick is starting chemo in two days, Coty explained. He’s still stitched from surgery. He can’t risk injury. But, man, this kid lives and breathes football and we’ve got to get him in there one more time.

    “If it’s the fourth quarter and the game’s decided,” Coty asked, “can I put him in to punt and have you not rush?”

    “Absolutely,” Quinion said.

    The Wildcats had their team picture taken for the yearbook before the game. So there was Nick – who had been starting linebacker, offensive guard and punter before testicular cancer made other plans – standing all afternoon in full pads as Wolcott Tech turned the ball over seven times and fell hopelessly behind, 42-0.

    And that’s when a call for a timeout rose from the Avon sideline early in the fourth quarter. With six words, Quinion did more than put six points on the scoreboard. As Wolcott Tech athletic director Ray Tanguay put it, “He did one of those things that renew your faith in humanity.”

    Quinion started across the field. Coty went out to meet him. Six words:

    “Let’s get the kid a touchdown,” Quinion said.

    “Really?” Coty said.

    Really.

    “When they told Nick he had cancer, he had held so solid,” Coty said. “When they told him he couldn’t play football this year, that’s the one time I saw his spirits get down. That’s what makes this play so amazing.”

    “It was always one of my dreams to score a touchdown,” Nick said. “This was my last chance.”

    The coaches don’t know each other well. Their relationship had been one of professional courtesy, a few e-mails here, a film exchange there. But everything he had heard about Quinion, Coty said, was that he’s a class act, a good man. Touched firsthand, Coty returned to the sidelines with tears welling in his eyes. He called out for No. 62. I formation, he told Reardon, isolation play.

    “It’s a good thing I had sunglasses on,” Coty said, “because I was crying. I told him to take that ball and run as fast as you can for the end zone.”

    The Avon players knew what would happen next. The Wildcats were earnest in their determination to protect Nick. They were all yelling, “Let me run block!” Coty chose Kyle Eustace, Nick’s best friend on the team, a buddy since elementary school, to lead the way.

    “I’m beginning to think the only person who didn’t know about all this was me,” Nick said.

    Nick took the handoff, broke right and suddenly all was right in the world. The Avon players chased him hard for 82 yards intent on catching only the glory of the moment.

    “Yes, it was staged, but the Avon kids made it look real,” Nick’s mom, Lisa, said. “For me, heaven opened up and the angels said this is going to be OK.”

    And how did it feel living your dream?

    “It actually hurt a little bit,” said Nick, who’ll turn 17 on Oct. 15. “But it felt great.”

    The Wolcott Tech players rushed to the end zone, surrounded Nick and hugged him for dear life. The Avon players were jumping up and down and cheering, too.

    “The emotion was overwhelming,” Tanguay said. “It was like ‘Rudy.'”

    “It was the greatest moment you could think of,” Nick’s dad, George, said.

    If the touchdown had brought the outpouring of emotion for the Reardon and Wolcott Tech families, it was meeting them after Avon’s 49-6 win that would be most emotional for Quinion. Strangers, called together by an act of decency, spent several minutes together.

    “I told [Quinion] it was the greatest thing he could have done for us,” George Reardon said.

    “I thanked him for giving us a moment that will live forever,” Lisa Reardon said.

    “I was amazed by their strength,” Quinion said.

    It is a strength demanded over a short, shocking period of less than two weeks. They thought Nick had nothing more than an infection. Yet when there was no fever and antibiotics weren’t helping, the urologist ordered an ultrasound. A decision to move quickly was made. Nick underwent surgery to remove a testicle. A CAT scan showed a spot near the kidney and two spots in his lungs. Coty said it had been hard to break the initial news of Nick’s cancer to his teammates. Tanguay spoke of the trauma within the close-knit family at Wolcott Tech.

    “But this kid,” Tanguay said, “he’s a trouper and a half.”

    Get this. Nick went through his first round of chemo Monday and instead of going to sleep he went to practice for a film session. More chemo Tuesday and he still made the final hour of practice.

    “I’d say pretty amazing,” Coty said.

    “The statistics show 70 [percent] to 80 percent survival rate for Nick’s type of cancer,” Lisa said. “Because of the spectacular outpouring of positive energy, prayers, everything that has gone on the last week, this kid is going to beat this. Everybody at Wolcott has been wonderful. Nick walked up to Jaime and told him, ‘Coach I’m going to be the Lance Armstrong of high school football.’ ”

    Quinion, who last year led Avon to its first state playoff appearance and has breathed football-life into a decidedly soccer-mad town, remained vigilant not to exploit this moment. He wanted to make sure the Reardons were comfortable before he spoke publicly. They were.

    “This wasn’t planned,” said Quinion, whose own dad, George, died at 69 after suffering with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and brain cancer. “The game was in hand. It just felt right at that moment. I figured if we can lift Nick’s spirits and hopes a little, he’ll have more energy to fight the fight. He’s going to need that spirit, that will, that energy. I want him to know there is a great body of prayers in his corner. I also think simple things often are what bring us closest together.”

    What? Buoyed by an 80 percent chance of success and the six most powerful words spoken in Connecticut this year, Nick Reardon was going to punt? No way.

    He’s going for it.


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