Middle Tennessee football inspired by local nine-year-old with cancer
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – For nine-year-old Colton Sheets, it's been a long journey.
At the age of three, Colton was diagnosed with leukemia, and has been battling it for a majority of his life.
"It's been pretty hard," Colton said. "But as it passed on it started to feel a little ordinary for me. Then I just got used to it."
Colton had spent six months in a Seattle children's hospital, where he underwent a cord-blood transplant.
Most recently, he has been making frequent trips to Vanderbilt Medical Center to ensure his cancer stays in remission.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," Colton's mother, Jennifer Sheets, said. "It brings you to your knees."
The month of September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, with the goal of spotlighting the types of cancer that affect thousands of children each year.
At a local Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, Colton's important story about childhood cancer found a voice.
Colton and his mother, Jennifer, father, Tim and little sister, Skylar, were eating at his favorite restaurant when MT graduate assistant Tyler Boyles overheard their conversation.
"We were celebrating Colton's 200 days post-transplant," Jennifer said. "It's his favorite place and he had his Make-A-Wish party there and everything. We were walking out and Tyler pulled up and said he happened to be listening. He introduced who he was and said he would really be interested in having Colton come to a game."
Jennifer gave her business card to Boyles, not expecting anything more after the exchange.
"I gave him my card and didn't think I'd hear anything after that," she said.
Sure enough, the phone call came.
"A couple weeks later, Coach [Brent] Brock called."
Coach Brock told Jennifer he would set them up with passes for MT's game against Charlotte this Saturday, and for them to come out to a practice.
Colton and his family showed up to Thursday's practice and were immediately welcomed by members of the Blue Raiders.
The Sheets family was greeted by MT head coach Rick Stockstill in the tunnel during practice.
Following their exchange, the family was guided around Floyd Stadium on a golf cart, where more MT players and coaches came over to interact with them.
"It felt pretty great for them to get to know me and what I've been through," Colton said.
Colton received lots of Blue Raider gear, including a pair of gloves from senior fullback Chase Pennycuff.
Not only was Colton allowed full access at practice, he is going to watch Saturday's game on field level as an honorary team captain, and Culvers Kickoff Kid.
"I think it's going to feel pretty great," Colton said. "I've never really been out on a field like that before."
For Colton, Saturday's game is more than just about football.
It's a getaway from the fight he's been going through for many years.
Seeing the Blue Raiders take the field, and all of the blue in the stands, is something Colton is looking forward to.
"Just showing up to see everybody," Colton said about what he's most excited about. "Everybody will get to see me there, including the crowd."
When Colton takes the field this Saturday, it will be for his fight against cancer, and for children around the world that have been affected by it.
"You can't imagine the fact that [MT] would care enough to do something like this," Jennifer said. "When we came in, the players knew about it, Coach Stockstill, Coach Brock and everybody. This just doesn't happen at universities anymore. To just embrace him, it is a testament to how amazing this university really is and how blessed we are that it's here."