Cancer behind him, Arthur Ray completes four-year journey to Spartans’ starting lineup

Dr. Saturday

It was four years in the making, but for Michigan State's Arthur Ray Jr., the wait was worth it. After battling cancer for much of his college career, Ray stepped onto the field at Spartan Stadium for the first time in the Spartans' 28-6 win over Youngstown State on Friday night. He was a surprise starter as a touching gesture from the Spartans' coaches and played in the first play from scrimmage before being removed.

"I had butterflies two hours before the game. I was like, man I miss this feeling," Ray said. "I have missed this feeling for so long. I haven't experienced this for so long."

In April, 2007, the then senior in high school was three months removed from playing in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and two months before had signed his letter of intent to play for the Spartans. Ray Jr. should have been enjoying his last weeks before graduation; instead, the Chicago native was diagnosed with cancer on his left leg bone below the knee. Chemotherapy and surgery followed and the versatile lineman enrolled at Michigan State the following spring. An infection, two years on crutches and three surgeries in the years to come meant that Ray Jr. had to battle a deadly disease to return to the playing field.

He participated in 11 practices this past spring but nothing could prepare him for the emotions of Friday night's season opener.{YSP:MORE}

"Just a bunch of different emotions. The walk was a very emotional experience for me. I just thought about my days on chemo," Ray said. "I thought about listening to that first doctor visit when I first found out the news. It all came to this great moment."

Having found out that he would start just hours before during the team's pre-game meal, Ray lined up left guard for the Spartans then came out after their first play from scrimmage, which was a pass that he blocked well on.

"It's just the beginning. Everybody else's expectations for Arthur Ray has never been mine," he said. "It means stepping back on that field, proving everyone wrong. A lot of people thought I couldn't get to this point. I am ready to keep going."

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Kristian R. Dyer is on Twitter: Follow him @KristianRDyer.

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