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Top RB recruit’s battle with cancer shapes his resolve

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Colleges often ask prospective students to reflect on a significant obstacle they have overcome in their young life on application essays. If he faces that question, Erie (Pa.) McDowell High running back Greg Garmon has a heck of an answer ready.

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McDowell running back Greg Garmon

McDowell running back Greg Garmon

As chronicled in this excellent feature by Sports Illustrated's Kristian Dyer, Garmon's life has been incredibly trying since the sixth grade. First, his house burned down. Then, after spending a year living with a friend (while his mother, stepfather and brother lived in a hotel), he moved into his new home with his family.

Yet that's when things got truly trying. For a full year, Garmon complained of severe pain in his left hip. After waiting through what doctors assumed were "growing pains," Garmon was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, directly on his hip bone.

"You don't think it can happen to someone like you and then suddenly, it does," Garmon told Dyer. "You don't think that in eighth grade you're going to have cancer.

"People couldn't come over for the holidays because my immune system was so down. I was worried it would change my life, that I could never be the same, could never play sports again."

Instead, Garmon was back playing football within a year. While there were initial concerns about how he would adjust to the physical challenges of a full football season -- the senior running back said that the first time he got hit after returning his whole body lit up with a tingling sensation -- he overcame those doubts with a flourish. Through 10 games of his senior season, Garmon has already run for 997 yards and nine touchdowns, living up to the fierce pace he set as a sophomore and junior.

Now, with scholarship offers from more than 20 major colleges (Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina and Arizona State among them), Garmon is en route to a high-profile college career, though even those coaches have questions about how his past battles with the disease could shape his future.

Unsurprisingly, Garmon has been able to convince all of them that his battle with cancer won't hold him back. If anything, it will help ensure that he will fight through any other struggles that come his way.

"Every coach I talk to asked me about it," he said. "It was something that always came up at first." [...]

"I won't say that it is a good thing to go through cancer or to lose your house all in a couple years time, but it helped shape me into who I am," he said. "And it will shape me in the future."

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