As the North Central College Cardinals take to the gridiron for battle against their opponent each week, twelve-year-old Conner Boose fights his own battle every day. When Boose was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that left him paralyzed from the neck down. But now, not only can Boose walk, he also has a very important role on the Cardinal football team.
Conner may not be the fastest or strongest player for the Cardinals and to say he’s even five feet tall is a stretch, but Conner brings something to the football program that’s just as crucial as strength and speed: heart.
“You can’t help but be affected when you’re around a child like that, that has such a spirit about him and a will to live and he’s a fighter,” said Jeff Thorne Offensive Coordinator for the North Central College football team.
At the age of two Conner had surgery to remove a brain tumor, but because of the location of the tumor it was too risky to remove the whole thing.
“He had to learn how to walk and crawl all over again,” said Conner’s mother, Penny. “Its been a long way. We went from almost three hours a day of physical therapy 5 days a week back to almost normal.”
Alex Haan, a tight end for the Cardinals, heard about the not-for-profit organization Friends of Jacyln, which connects children with pediatric brain tumors with high school and college sports teams.
“It kind of brings you down to earth and lets you know that there is something bigger than us,” said Haan. “This process is bigger than us.”
Conner was shy around the team at first, but now he acts as though he’s hanging out with a bunch of other twelve year olds. Even though he’s home schooled, thanks to the Cardinal football team he still has a tight knit group of friends.
“Because I’m not really in school with other kids, I’m around them hanging out having fun,” said Conner. “I’ve had them turn into my friends.”
“Sometimes he big-times us, which is kind of funny,” said Haan. “He says ‘hey I’m kind of busy I can’t talk with you guys right now. I got other things going on.’”
Conner still struggles with seizures and has been in the hospital many times since becoming part of the team, but his future is bright. His father says Conner strives to be the best he can be every day.
“I see how much he fights for stuff, just the little things,” said Conner’s father, Douglas Boose. “It kind of gives you a perspective of what’s really important. He’s my hero.”
The Cardinals will continue to compete for a National Championship and you can bet Conner will be right there on the sideline.
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