Home Team Friday: Off the Gridiron (10/29/21)

Sports

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The game of football runs deep in Reitz freshman Evan Meyer. 

“It’s what is in him. It’s what he wants to do,” said his mother, Wendy Meyer.

It’s been apart of his life, and his family’s, for as long as he can remember. Years of youth football games, Friday nights at the Reitz Bowl and family football functions dominated his childhood.

So when football was taken away, it took a part of him with it. 

Last June, the 13-year-old was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. It’s a rare type of cancer that occurs mostly in young boys. That diagnosis kept Meyer out of Cub football his 8th grade year.

But in November of 2020, the 13-year-old got good news: he was in remission. After missing a year of football, Meyer was thrilled to finally begin his freshman football season at Reitz. But his battle wasn’t finished. 

“We shut the door on cancer,” Wendy said. “We were done with cancer. We were moving forward. And it reoccurring within a year is also very rare, so we hit a brick wall. We didn’t see it coming.”

On July 29, Meyer found another lump under his arm. His cancer was back. Not wanting to let the news keep him from football, Meyer kept the news to himself. 

“It was kind of, I don’t want to say a secret, but his mom made it known to me, it was something he didn’t really want a whole bunch of people knowing about,” said freshman head coach Matt Lehman. “He didn’t want sympathy or people feeling sorry for him. So, we just didn’t talk about it.”

After making it through summer workouts and a preseason scrimmage, Meyer got earth-shattering news. 

“After that scrimmage, I received the news that I couldn’t play anymore,” Evan said. “The doctors said I couldn’t play anymore. I was heartbroken that I didn’t get to play in my freshman year.”

As Meyer prepared to fight another battle, his Panther teammates stepped up to fight with him. 

“It really became a good source of inspiration for our guys,” Lehman said. “We had a couple guys that sometimes like to feel sorry for ourselves, you know, ‘Coach, I’m winded’ or ‘Coach, I’m tired.’ It’s like, guys, you really need to look at things and put them into perspective that Evan’s going through more pain right now than you will probably ever face in your life.”

“They brought my jersey to every single game, set it on the sideline,” Evan said. “They had decals with my number and my name on the back of their helmets. Some of them even wrote my number on their cleats. It was hard, but they helped me through it.”

The program also stepped up to raise money for Meyer’s treatment. They held several fundraisers throughout the season to benefit the freshman wide receiver. 

There’s still progress to be made before Meyer can put on this jersey again. But when that day finally comes, it will mean even more knowing the journey it took to get there. 

“Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to watch Evan put his jersey on, and he will have earned his right to be out on that football field, and be able to have lived his dream of being a Reitz football player,” Wendy said.

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