Manning, cancer patient push each other to recovery
Posted January 30, 2014
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.