Ken Medlin

When football takes a back seat

Posted December 27, 2013

UNC quarterback Marquise Williams (12) drops back to throw a pass during action at Kenan Stadium between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke University Blue Devils on November 30, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC.

A strange thing happened at Belk Bowl media day, and it put football - and life itself - in perspective.

Jared Fialko and I were wrapping up an interview with Marquise Williams when the Carolina quarterback asked if he could tell us one more thing.

This doesn't happen very often with major college athletes - they're busy and constantly being bombarded with questions, and that goes doubly so for a "media day" setting such as this one a day before the Belk Bowl. Players are scattered around at interview stations where a steady stream of reporters (and that includes us) cycle through and (likely) ask the same questions over and over again.

It probably gets mind numbing for the players, which is why it was so unusual for a starting quarterback to ask if he could tell us a story. So, we listened...

Williams proceeded to tell us about Bryce Heckendorf, a young boy less than a year old. Bryce has been diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a degenerative disorder that affects the nervous system. Former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly's son, Hunter, had the same disease. Hunter Kelly lived to be eight years old.

As Marquise told us more about young Bryce, we learned of their connection. Bryce's uncle is an assistant offensive coordinator on the UNC staff. Keith Heckendorf works directly with the quarterbacks, and describes their relationship as being like a family. When times are hard, you rely on your family, and Keith turned to his football family for support. The quarterbacks are now wearing blue wristbands in support of Bryce and his fight.

The effects of Krabbe are disturbing to read. According to the National Institute of Health: "As the disease progresses, muscles continue to weaken, affecting the infant’s ability to move, chew, swallow, and breathe. Affected infants also experience vision loss and seizures." It affects 1 in 100,000 people, and there is no known cure.

Williams talked about how painful it was to imagine a young child being unable to grow and play and do things he - an elite athlete - takes for granted. "I'm playing for my little man," Williams said, pledging to dedicate his bowl game to Bryce. And that's truly something worth rooting for.

If you'd like to read more about Bryce Heckendorf's fight, check out www.thebstrongfund.org.

4 Comments

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  • vt94hokies Dec 29, 10:50 p.m.

    Awesome article.

  • Gunnstigator Dec 28, 5:38 a.m.

    Caught this on WRAL news; what an inspiring story that certainly puts things in perspective.

  • DUKE4EVER Dec 27, 11:37 p.m.

    Nice story. Great for Williams sharing with the media.

    We get too caught up in sports and fail to remember what is important in life.

    Thanks for making us stop and think.

  • IronRam Dec 27, 10:52 p.m.

    ...what a great story about real life and real people making a difference...

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR
 
Final
CIN 4
PIT 0
Final
BAL 3
TAM 0
Final
NYY 3
CHC 0
Final
MIL 5
STL 1
Final
ARI 2
NYM 5
Final
PHI 0
ATL 1
Final
NYY 2
CHC 0
Final
DET 2
CLE 3
Final
MIA 3
WAS 6
Final
TEX 3
SEA 2
Final
CWS 4
BOS 6
Final
HOU 4
KAN 6
8:10pm Wednesday
MIN 0
TOR 0
Final
ANA 5
OAK 4
Final
SDP 4
COL 2
Final
SFG 2
LOS 1
1:05pm Today
PHI
ATL
 
1:08pm Today
DET
CLE
 
1:10pm Today
MIN
TOR
 
2:05pm Today
TEX
SEA
 
3:45pm Today
SFG
LOS
 
6:40pm Tonight
SDP
COL
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
 
7:05pm Tonight
WAS
STL
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
NYY
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
TOR
 
8:10pm Tonight
CWS
BOS
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
KAN
 
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
ORL 86
IND 101
Final
MIL 103
ATL 111
Final
CLE 114
BRK 85
Final
MEM 106
DAL 105
Final
OKC 112
DET 111
Final
NOP 105
HOU 100
Final
SAN 100
LAL 113
Final
MIA 87
PHI 100
Final
NYK 95
TOR 92
Final
MIN 130
UTA 136
Final
BOS 102
WAS 118
Final
DEN 112
GSW 116
Final
POR 110
LAC 104
Final
SAC 99
PHO 104
Final
TAM 4
MON 5
Final
PIT 4
CLB 3
Final
ANA 4
DAL 3
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
PHI
8:00pm Tonight
STL
CHI
9:30pm Tonight
COL
MIN
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR