Idaho Honors Scholarship for Football Recruit Diagnosed With Cancer
The University of Idaho's football program recently received some difficult news: One of its recruits in the class of 2015 was diagnosed with cancer. Unfazed, Idaho stuck by its scholarship offer, even though the player's football-playing future remains very much uncertain.
West Valley (Wash.) High School fullback Jace Malek initially felt pain in his right hip during football season, according to Greg Lee of The Spokesman-Review, but didn't think much of it at the time. When the pain reappeared during wrestling season, he went to a chiropractor, per Lee, which ultimately led to him undergoing an MRI.
The MRI revealed a tumor "the size of a cantaloupe," and doctors diagnosed him with Stage IV osteosarcoma, which is a type of bone cancer, according to his wrestling coach, Mike Bundy.
Soon after being diagnosed, Malek placed a call to Idaho assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich to inform him of the diagnosis, per ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings. Cinkovich reassured Malek that no matter whether he'd be able to play football again or not, the school would still honor his scholarship. Head coach Paul Petrino later called Malek to repeat the news: his scholarship was safe.
"Jace is part of the family," Petrino told Lee. "He wants to coach. If he can't play, he'll be a student assistant. We felt terrible for him. He had such a great season in football and was wrestling well. Most important is you hope he gets better."
Thus, on national signing day earlier this month, Malek went ahead and signed his letter of intent, officially committing to becoming a part of Idaho's football program one way or another.
"I'm taking this as an advantage instead of a disadvantage for my coaching life," Malek told Jennings. "Which is something I can pursue way quicker than someone else."
For more on Malek's story, check out this report from Gabe Davis of KHQ.com:
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