Woodbridge senior Troy Haynes won't get to be at this year's DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game, but his presence figures to be felt throughout Delaware Stadium Friday night.
(PODCAST: Blue-Gold Players to honor Woodbridge QB Troy Haynes)
The two-time Division 2 state championship winning quarterback has traveled to Houston to continue his fight against Cancer that began on his kidney, and has aggressively spread to other nearby organs.
Word of the start of Troy's Cancer battle was also aggressive, reaching all segments of the state from Archmere to Delmar, and as the state's football community convenes for its annual senior showcase, it's clear it's not just the Woodbridge Blue Raiders who are affected.
DMA running back and cornerback Corahn Alleyne first met Troy when the two battled in a 2015 playoff game.
“My reaction when I heard was shock and surprise. You just don’t expect it to happen to someone that you know and you’re close to. The reason I think he can beat it is he’s a fighter. He’s been playing for Woodbridge since his freshman year and I remember playing him in the playoff game. If anyone can do this, he can do it.”
It's a belief that the four Woodbridge players taking part on Friday's game know well.
The cancer diagnosis hit Troy's teammate Gabe Wescott hard.
“It was a real shock, I kind of just broke down on the spot. It was tough hearing that my best friend had such a hard task ahead of him, but I knew the kind of person he was he was going to battle it and make it through. He’s such a selfless guy. He wants this battle over anybody else because he knows he can handle it. He’s so composed, upbeat, and positive, he’s the toughest guy for this battle.”
Troy's tenacity came at an early age.
Josh Propes has joined Wescott, along with Jamon Kane in a group that made a point to visit Troy in the first stages of his treatment at the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, just to make sure someone they knew as a champion would come up on top again.
"We text him every 3 days just to see how he’s doing. We try to keep him involved, we want him to feel that he’s still apart of this, even though he’s not here. We’re thinking about him and praying for him. Ever since he was little, he was a winner. In Pop Warner when he was a quarterback, we went to regionals, undefeated seasons, went to middle school, undefeated seasons. High school he had a great career, he’s an all-around winner in everything I know him in. When it came to basketball and gym in the morning, he always wanted to go on the winning team.”
Leading the charge for the Troy's Woodbridge team has been his Head Coach Jed Bell.
Troy's news came as the school was wrapping up Spring Break, putting his coach in a tricky spot when he received a call with information he wasn't pleased to hear.
“I was at an airport in Florida on my way back from Mexico. He gave me a call and told me what it was, and I had to step aside and deal with it in a public place, which wasn’t easy. I’ve coached Troy in the quarterback position group for the last four years. I’ve known him going back to 11 and 12 years old, he means the world to me. I told him the other day, you might look up to me, but you mean so much to me, you’re my hero. I think about when times are hard, I have nothing to mope about or feel bad about, because things could be a heck of a lot worse. Just to see him dealing with what he’s dealing with with such a positive outlook and appreciation for people, it says a lot about who he is.”
Bell added that appreciation for people has infected the Blue Raiders' family in a great way.
“I said it at graduation the other day, and I’ll stick with it, they’re teammates by fate, but brothers by choice. We talk about brotherhood and being a family and say it, but it’s another thing to embody it, and those guys do. They’re so concerned for his well-being and each other, they’ve had to rally around him through each other. We’ve really had to lean on each other through these times. I already look at them as sons, and each other as brothers, but we’ve gotten a lot closer to each other through this process.”
“When it started, we needed a slogan to raise some money for the family, but in the last couple of months it’s changed from a slogan to a perspective and a mindset. It’s a message for how you should live your life every single day and be grateful for the opportunities you have. I know as a program we’ll have it for the rest of our lives.”
And it's a lesson others have seen as well. Wilmington Friends running back Quentin McAbee shared the field with Haynes and Woodbridge in the 2016 championship game won by the Blue Raiders, but after he went through 23 days in the same hospitals as Troy back in December following a lacerated pancreas, the motto "Fight Like 4" sticks hard.
“To me it means something a little more special, because I was once that kid in the hospital, not knowing whether I would play again or not. I know he’s feeling that same thing, so “Fight Like 4” is really just a better perspective on life, and how to appreciate living more, and appreciate this game we love so much.”
Delaware's seniors will get to play that game one last time, and Woodbridge's 4 remaining Blue-Gold seniors will get a special honor in the contest. Besides Blue-Gold bracelets with "FightLike4" that all players have received, Brock Keeler, Gabe Wescott, Josh Propes, and Jamon Kane will each swap out their jerseys to No. 4 for a quarter, and Gabe and Brock are looking forward to using it as another chance to bond with their football brother 1,500 miles away.
“To wear the four, that’s the greatest honor of the game along with the Blue-Gold Foundation," Wescott said. "It’s going to be a special moment to put that four on. ”
Brock added, "I’ll be wearing that in the fourth quarter, so I hope it’s my best quarter, just for him to show I support him and that he’s here with me.”
Troy Haynes exchanged texts with WDEL on Wednesday, and wrote he's feeling a lot better than what his Doctors have been expecting. He added the reactions of his teammates and adversaries "just gives me something else worth fighting for, I'm really grateful for all of the support that I've been given."
That support has raised over $44,000 on a GoFundMe page.
The DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game is Friday night at 7 p.m. inside Delaware Stadium, with pre-game festivities beginning at 6 p.m.