Super Bowl

Manning, cancer patient push each other to recovery

Posted January 30

Not too many people expected that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would be back in the Super Bowl this year. Dating back to 2012, Manning’s chances of playing another Super Bowl were low.

Manning had neck surgery May 2011 and was cut by the Colts, the only team he ever played for. Many people wondered if he was ever going to play football again.

Twelve year old Harrison McKinion remembers that year very well.

“I felt really awful,” said McKinion. ”I was throwing up every day.”

In 2011, Harrison was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.

His dad Steve McKinion was worried.

"It looked like Harrison wasn't going to survive his cancer,” McKinion’s dad said. “He wasn't responding to the treatment."

Harrison's doctor wanted to do something to lift his young patient’s spirits and got in touch with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe to help.

"The oncologist felt the sense of urgency to make something happen to encourage my son at what he thought could be the end of his life,” said Steve.

That's when the phone rang.

"He said ‘this is Peyton Manning’," said Harrison.

"I teared up,” said Steve McKinion. “I was so excited to know that one of Harrison's heroes had called to encourage him.”

Harrison had a message for the quarterback.

"Harrison said ‘I want you to know I am praying for you’,” said Harrison’s dad. “I was shocked to see he was so concerned about someone else's well-being."

"He was talking about how we can get better together,” said Harrison McKinion.

After that phone call Harrison became the first patient to try an experimental treatment for children with cancer. He's been in remission ever since. Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos and has taken the 2013 team to the Super Bowl.

"I think Harrison feels like it was because of his conversation,” said Steve McKinion. “That he gave Manning the good luck to get better."

"He thought: ‘Manning's gone through rehab and hasn't given up so I'm not giving up’," said Steve.

Harrison McKinion has his sights set on making his middle school baseball team. For Manning, it's all about the Lombardi trophy - an unlikely parallel journey for two guys who didn't worry too much about the odds.


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  • Toddler10-21 Jan 31, 1:27 p.m.

    Great story. Saw one similar last week about Russell Wilson on espn. Young girl made wallets out of tape while in the hospital. Russell went to see her and she gave him one. He actually carries it and showed it during s press conference.

  • baldchip Jan 31, 11:12 a.m.

    What an example of real leadership! Big time athletes some responsibilities in society beyond playing and making big bucks!! Some realize it-others not so much!!

    Peyton Manning is a prime example of "getting it"!! I could name many other professional athletes who don't get it!!

    Many times when I see interviews-I want to scream "it's not just about you fool!!"
    remember, their is no letter I in the word team!

  • mm23 Jan 31, 9:24 a.m.

    Beautiful story. Stay well Harrison! And good luck with baseball tryouts. Spring will be here soon :)

  • wolfguy75 Jan 30, 11:52 p.m.

    Man I like Wilson, But this article gives me more reason to root for manning! Go Broncos and manning!

  • Doc Holliday Jan 30, 9:43 p.m.

    What a remarkable story, that thankfully has a happy ending. I know many athletes reach out and... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    +1...Best wishes to Harrison McKinion and good luck with the baseball career. Always glad to see Peyton doing what Peyton does best, being a true leader for others.

  • StunGunn Jan 30, 7:43 p.m.

    What a remarkable story, that thankfully has a happy ending. I know many athletes reach out and help sick children, but this one was very special with Coach Cut asking Peyton Manning to call a brave little boy fighting for his life. What a refreshing change from the stories about athletes behaving badly.

  • vt94hokies Jan 30, 6:38 p.m.

    Just watched this one on here. One of the greatest ever reported by WRAL Sports fan. Harrison McKinion is a tough 12 year old kid. Coach Cut made it possible for him to talk to Peyton Manning. What a wonderful story. It touched my heart to the core. Wishing Harrison the best. And, a Super Bowl win for Peyton and the Broncos.

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