DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Most 17-year-old’s will spend their summer at the beach or vacationing with friends. For Gavin Hill, his summer looked a little different.
“Every three weeks I’d go in for in-patient chemo and immunotherapy pretty much the whole summer,” Gavin explained.
Battling neuroblastoma for the second time, Gavin’s tumor had reduced enough at the beginning of August to switch to outpatient chemotherapy and radiation. And outpatient treatment means football.
“Starting the summer off not coming to workouts – that was hard enough,” he remembered. “I had to do what I could do to get back out here. There was no stopping me at this point.”
Six months after he found out his cancer had returned – he’s back out in pads doing what he loves most.
“I just didn’t think that he could do what he’s doing right now,” head coach Brian Flynn said. “He’s practicing the whole practice and even doing the conditioning at the end which is pretty intense.”
“When you get anything that you love taken away from you, it’s hard,” Gavin added. “It’s made me love it that much more.”
For Gavin, the month of August consists of daily trips to Charlotte in the morning for treatment. But by 6:00 every night, he’s suited up and tossing a ball.
“When he came out, everybody just kind of went up a notch,” Coach Flynn explained. “You really could see it.”
While most didn’t know when or if Gavin would be able to play again, he’s never doubted he would be calling the signals under the lights this fall.
“There’s no thought that went through my mind of him being able to play in August or September or whenever this fall,” Flynn said. “Not one time.”
“I’m taking in double calories, working out when I can,” Gavin explained. “Obviously there was some hard times, but after I kind of turned the corner I think I realized I was going to be out of here no matter what.”
Call it grit, call it reslience. For Gavin – it’s just who he is. And after missing a season, he’s more than ready to be back under the Friday night lights.
“I’ll probably be speechless. Just so ready to go,” Gavin said, about picturing his first game back. “You probably won’t be able to keep me still before the game. Won’t be able to talk to me. I’ll just be in my zone.”
“I think what we’re going to have to do is that first play, just run four verticals – what we call 99 – and just let him chuck it as far as he can because he’s going to be so jacked up,” Flynn laughed.
And from there – his goal isn’t about surviving his disease anymore. It’s about surviving the season and bringing a trophy home to North Davidson.
“He’s already been talking about the first time he scores, about spiking it and getting a 15-yard penalty,” Flynn chuckled. “And what am I going to say there? The kid’s been through a lot. I might just have to shut my mouth and take one there.”
After getting his port removed and continuing treatment in Charlotte, Gavin was been cleared to play the season opener against Reagan.