AMES — Kane Seeley of Perry and Mitchell Meyers of Houston, Tx. became fast friends when both became members of the Iowa State University football recruiting class of 2012.
Linebacker Seeley and kicker Cole Nettins (who are roommates) are the only members of that class to appear in every quarter of every game after a red shirt year. Meyers, a burly defensive end, appeared in every game as a freshman and started every game as a sophomore, but last fall, in what would have been his junior year, Meyers missed the season.
The reason? A diagnosis 14 months ago that changed his life forever: Cancer. In particular, Hodgkin Lymphoma. An average of eight thousand cases of the disease are discovered each year nationally, with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma affecting roughly nine times as many.
“I guess I got a bad draw by having the more difficult type,” Meyers said, noting the survival rates make the immune system disorder “one of the better types of cancer — if there is such a thing — that you can have, if you have to get it in the first place.”
The discovery of the disease forced Meyers to undergo months of treatment and inspired Seeley to take action.
“Mitchell is not the kind of guy who wants to draw attention to himself,” Seeley said. “I talked with Luke Knott (a former Cyclone gridder) and we came up with the idea of raising money for research.”
Former ISU players Daniel Burton and Grant Rohach quickly joined in, as did trainer Meagan Hussey. Their plan came to fruition Friday when they former “Meyers Crew” as a team for a Relay For Life event held at the Lied Rec Center on the ISU campus.
“Luke and I were just tossing around some numbers, wondering what we should set as a fundraising goal,” Seeley said. “We came up with $5,000 and started working with friends and on the internet to raise the money. Early on Friday we had something like $2,000, but by Sunday we were up to $7,300. I could not be happier or more proud of everyone who has donated, which they can still do.”
Meyers said he was grateful for all the support he has received and for those donating. All funds are given to the American Cancer Society.
“Everyone here in Ames has been very supportive, and that makes a difference,” he said. “The entire team and all the coaches came out Friday, and while no one could stay long because of a scrimmage Saturday, they were there and it meant a lot.”
Meyers said he first noticed something might be wrong when his neck began to swell after a workout early last year. A trip to the doctor on a Monday revealed the cancer, and by Friday of that week he began undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Mary Greeley Cancer Center in Ames.
After months of treatment he returned to Houston for additional therapy, including a stem cell transplant. Doing so prevented Meyers from playing last year, and while he is currently working out and lifting weights, he cannot do so in any kind of official capacity with the team, as he is not enrolled at ISU this semester.
“I have been medically cleared to do the workouts and all of those kind of things,” he explained. “Right now I am in remission. I have an appointment in Houston in June to follow up, and will, of course, have check-ups on a regular basis, but as of now I am in the best possible position I can be in.”
Meyers said he will re-enroll for summer school, which will allow him to rejoin Seeley and his fellow Cyclones for summer practices.
“I cannot wait to get back out there,” he said. “I told the coaches I wanted to come back and make a contribution. I know there is no way of avoiding being ‘the guy who overcame cancer and came back to play’ because that is just going to be my life from now on. What I want to do is get out there and make a difference as a player, and not as some cheerleader-in-uniform-inspirational-guy on the sidelines.”
Seeley said he looks forward to having his friend back with the team on the field.
“Mitchell is a good player and an even greater guy,” he stated. “The strength he has shown through all of this and his attitude have been so incredible and it has made it easy for people to pull for him who don’t even know him personally.”
Meyers said he often hears others tell him how strong he has been and that they themselves would likely not be as stout in fighting the disease, an opinion with which he disagrees.
“You don’t know how strong you are until you are faced with something like this,” he said. “I tell people all the time ‘yes, you could handle this, you are stronger than you think’ because, I think, people are scared by the word ‘cancer.’ People can handle more than they realize — I truly believe that.”
While Meyers could have the option of applying to the NCAA for a medical red shirt, he said he wanted this year to be his final season.
“I want to finish up with my friends,” he explained. “Many of them have already graduated, and with the cancer I missed a year. I will graduate in May next year with a degree in Supply Chain Management, and it just makes sense to be done at the same time as the other guys in my class.”
“Kane really spearheaded the Relay For Life idea and has been a big support and I cannot thank him and Luke and all the others for everything they have done,” Meyers said. “Just saying ‘thanks’ does not cover it — it has meant so much more.”
Seeley, who is currently taking graduate courses, deflected any credit.
“Mitchell would have done the same for any of us,” he said. “Teammates help each other out, but more than that, we are friends. There was no way we could just sit back and not do what little we could to help.”