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BYU football team honors former player battling cancer

By Kathy Aiken  |  Posted Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 10:00pm


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PROVO -- One day a week during spring practice and the fall season, the BYU football team honors someone special. They call the tradition "Thursday's Hero."

This week, that honor went to Russ Simons. Russ is a former offensive lineman from Rick's College -- so being at BYU's practice field was a dream come true. As the team's special guest, Simons and his family soaked up every moment of it.

Russ Simons -- who was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer and given months to live -- was honored as the BYU football team's "Thursday's Hero."

"This is something he's been wanting to do but has never made time to do," said Russ's wife Liz.

They took time this past week, since Russ doesn't have much time. He was recently diagnosed with stage-4 terminal cancer and was told he has just months to live.

"It was a shock," Russ said. "You don't expect to hear those words, 34 years old and fairly healthy. We didn't want it to control our lives and do what we have to do to beat it."

In hopes of beating the disease, Russ has gone through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. But the cancer -- that started in his pelvis -- has spread to his lungs and liver.


It was a shock. You don't expect to hear those words, 34 years old and fairly healthy. We didn't want it to control our lives and do what we have to do to beat it.

–Russ Simons


"We're not sure what's next. There's not a lot that they can do," said Russ.

But the Cougars could do something -- at least for one afternoon. They named him their Thursday's Hero. From one offensive lineman to another, Terrance Brown had this message.

"We're so proud to have you here and we look up to you a lot because you're going through what most people don't have to," he said.

Russ' children received gifts. The team asked him to sign their team flag, which flies at every practice, and every game.

"As a hero of ours, we'd like you to be part of our team so we can carry you out every day with us," said Brown.

So Russ Simons childhood dream came true -- he is now an honorary BYU Cougar. Russ says he'll continue cancer treatment, hoping to live for years, instead of months.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com

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