Everyone goes through tough times during their lives. It’s important though that we remember who’s there for us in that time of need.
At one of the lowest points of his life, during his fight with cancer, the New Orleans Saints were there for Sean Williams. Sean’s experience is just one example of how powerful sports, and its players can be for a fan.
The New Orleans Saints mean a lot to many people. Heck, it can be said that the love for the Black and Gold is nationwide. Avid Saints fan and current host of the Under the Dome Podcast Sean Williams loves his team as much as the next fan. But the story of his perils, and how he’s come out victorious with the help of the Saints alongside him, is like no other.
This week I tell the tale of Sean Williams, his journey, and what it was like being a Saints fan along the way.
The Saints and Sean Williams have a common thread in their recent history. Similar to when the city of New Orleans went through its struggles with Hurricane Katrina, Sean has gone through some struggles of his own. On October 15th, 2012, Sean Williams was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer. This diagnosis would forever change the way Sean would live his life to this day.
I did some research beyond what Sean told me about Colon cancer and found that it is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Sean survived, but most aren’t as fortunate. About one of every three people diagnosed recover to tell the tale. During this time of uncertainty, Sean looked to his friends and family for support.
And he got some unexpected help from his favorite team, the New Orleans Saints.
Tyler: When times got rough for New Orleans citizens during Hurricane Katrina, people would often use the Saints as their “rock”. During your own personal perils, what made you decide to look at the Saints in the same way?
Sean: Well you gotta understand when you’re in a life altering situation, you gotta just find positivity, something to hold on to where you can. That can be smallest of things, it can the biggest of things. There were other things that definitely affected the way I looked at good things, my final child Drew, he was born in July of that year. I got my diagnosis in October. There’s all the motivation that you need. Most everything in my life has been in some way equated to be football, to the days that I played until now.
Tyler: What did it feel like, knowing you had the support of the team with you as you fought for your life?
Sean: It makes all the difference in the world. Nowadays if you buy the jerseys, if you buy the tickets to see their guys play, if you’re fully invested literally in being a fan of a professional sports franchise, getting something back, being noticed, and having the way that you feel about your team validated in some way, that’s huge.
I’m in a position now with the show that I get to go maybe a step further, with Joe Horn or with Kyle Turley, I get to actually come in contact and talk to these guys. And when they come you don’t pay them anything to come on the show. I reach out to them and say hey, we’re fans, your fans would love to hear from you, can you spare a few minutes. It’s nothing more than these guys making time for the people that have supported them over these years.
You magnify that by the scope of the situation I was in. Perfect example, I was a huge Khiry Robinson fan, way, way before any of this, and I followed him on twitter, and he followed me. We would check in before back and forth. Well I told him about me battling cancer, and when his rookie season was over, the local sports shop here had him and Junior Galette coming to town to sign autographs. Well, the day I heard the advertisement, I went that day and bought my ticket. Immediately I reached out to him (Khiry Robinson), and said hey, I just bought my ticket and sent him a photo of the ticket I bought, and Khiry said, “Hey I am so looking forward to meet you”.
Well now by this point cancer had showed up, had done its thing, and we were still working through that. Well the day comes I get outside in line and I am so sick, I may die standing here in that line waiting to meet Khiry Robinson, but I’m going to get in there. Well the time finally comes, and it just so happens my personalized #37 jersey that I wear in the photo of me on twitter, I walked in and he (Khiry) stood up from behind the table and reached out and hugged me, and said, “I have been waiting to meet you”.
That is a memory I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. The kindness that those guys showed me, that’s something beyond football. At the end of the day this is still a kids game that grownups play, and what you do beyond the sidelines of that football field is what lives on forever. You may be a fantastic football player, bit if you’re a shitty person, that’s what you’ll be remembered as.