August 07, 2013 - When the gridiron heroes suit up for the fifth annual Football for a Cure on Aug. 17, they will honor family and friends they are playing for during the pre-season scrimmage.
From left, Wolves Jay Wright, Bryce Witherspoon, Michael Yates and DJ Zezula are ready to fight cancer in Football for a Cure, Aug. 17. Not pictured Matt Boczar. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
Each football player has a nameplate on their jersey with a name of someone who has fought, is currently fighting, or lost their battle with cancer.
Junior DJ Zezula is playing for his Grandma Wise, and for the last three years has played with the same thought every year.
"Even though she has left us physically - emotionally and spiritually she is still here," he said. "She hasn't been forgotten at all. It is a privilege. I am grateful I can play for her."
Senior Michael Yates is also playing for a grandparent, his grandfather, Larry Smith.
"It is special," he added.
Junior Bryce Witherspoon played for his mom, Jodi, last year. This year he plays for Charlene Helmle, who is like a second mom to him.
"It will be awesome to play for her and continue her fight," he added. "Playing for her means everything and showing her all I can do because I always tell her about it."
For his first Football for a Cure, Jay Wright is playing for his grandfather Jim Kotsko who passed away from lung cancer in 2009.
"My brother played for him before me," he said. "I am privileged to continue the legacy for my grandpa and showing him we still remember him and love him."
It is also the first year for junior Matt Boczar, who is playing for his six-year-old cousin Addison Garn who is currently battling it.
"It feels good," he added about playing for her. "She is able to see me play for her in front of all the people."
As they go onto the field they will also remember who they are playing for during the special event.
Zezula will remember when his grandma took off work for a school play when he was in second grade.
Yates will think back to one of the happy times when he was little and in the deer blind with his Grandpa Smith. He will also remember visiting him in the hospital.
For Boczar, it is just cherishing the time he gets to spend with his cousin and playing with her.
"We are really close," he added. "I visit her in the hospital when she needs to go. We have a close relationship."
Wright smiled as he recalled a few moments with his grandfather like when he would always have a box of oatmeal cookies specifically for Wright.
"He would always call me his favorite Jacob even though I was the only Jacob in the family," Wright said. "It is nice going to my grandparents' house and just remembering."
Football for a Cure begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 17 and is held at Clarkston High School, 6093 Flemings Lake Road.
"It shows there is still hope to find a cure and we want to fight for it," Wright said.
"It is much more than just a game," Zezula added. "It is about love and love for the people we are playing for, the game, the people who are watching and the people who have passed."
T-shirts are available for $10. Proceeds from the event benefit the Clarkston community with services at McLaren Breast Cancer and McLaren Cancer Institute - Clarkston.
For more information or to volunteer for the event, please email ClarkstonFootballforaCure@gmail.com.