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The Journal Gazette

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:10 am

Football key healer for senior

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

Today

(All games at 7 p.m.)

Bishop Dwenger at Northrop

North Side at Concordia

Snider at Bishop Luers

South Side at Homestead

Wayne at Carroll

Bellmont at East Noble

Huntington North at New Haven

Leo at DeKalb

Norwell at Columbia City

Heritage at Jay County

Lima Central Catholic (Ohio) at Bluffton

Southern Wells at South Adams

Woodlan at Adams Central

Angola at Eastside

Churubusco at Fairfield

Garrett at Central Noble

Lakeland at Fremont

Prairie Heights at West Noble

Warsaw at Concord

Wawasee at Goshen

Wabash at Whitko 

His senior season was not what Huntington North senior Conner West expected. The defensive end did lead the team out Sept. 29 for Senior Night and participate in the pregame coin toss. 

West, however, did not play against Leo that night, which unfortunately has been his status all season. Last November, West was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has been at Indianapolis' Riley Hospital the majority of the start to his senior year.

“I was shocked and devastated and sad,” West said of first learning of his diagnosis of ALL, a type of bone marrow cancer found in the tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. 

And so the Vikings (0-8) may be struggling on the field, but the triumphs can be found with West's recovery, as well as the part the team has played in that success story.  

West has spent time with coach Rick Burnau and other Vikings players through the last few months, mainly in Indianapolis. Since he recently returned home to Huntington, he has had more participation with the team but spends times during games in the press box because of health concerns.

Football has been a part of West's life “ever since I could (play),” including the last three years at Huntington North. While he hasn't been on the field, football remains a big part of his life. 

“The football team has been my biggest supporters, other than my family,” West said. “They have really kept me in the loop on everything, and a lot of the guys came down to visit a couple of times and brought me stuff. They made it a lot easier to get through knowing those guys had my back.”

West has been able to keep working on his academics electronically, but he missed being a part of the football team and the atmosphere and environment surrounding a game. There is just something about the up-close and personal look of a Friday night.

That's why returning to the field for Senior Night meant so much to West. 

“It was really cool,” he said. “It would have been better, obviously, if I could have played in it.”

His long-term health is looking “good” after chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant.

“It looks normal,” West said of his prognosis.

West returns to Riley twice a week, with the possibility of that soon changing to once a week. 

Only watching football instead of playing hasn't changed his perspective on the sport, although his view of life is a different story.  

“It has changed my perspective; not every day is guaranteed, and it just changes your whole outlook,” he said. “You have to live in the moment.”

Greg Jones is the assistant sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1998. He can be reached by email at gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax, 461-8648.