Warriors’ No. 1 fan has 10th birthday wish come true
Playing catch with the quarterbacks and relishing his role on the scout team, the newest member of the University of Hawaii football team was as giddy as a kid.
Jacob Johnson turned 10 on Friday.
But Jacob’s age belies his toughness. He underwent 25 spinal taps and 40 months of chemotherapy the past five years to apparently conquer leukemia.
“He’s back in school and playing sports, and it’s all because of a determined positive attitude,” Trey Johnson said of his son. “He’s an inspiration to our family and everyone around him.”
Jacob’s birthday wish was to attend a Rainbow Warrior practice. Trey, a leadership instructor with UH’s ROTC program, and UH coach Nick Rolovich have known each other for 16 years. Trey was instrumental in enabling the Warriors to train for a day at Schofield Barracks last month.
Rolovich invited Jacob to Friday’s practice, the final full workout in Manoa ahead of the Warriors’ season On his son, Jacob, 10, a leukemia survivor and the “No. 1 fan of the program,” on getting his birthday wish to attend practice opener against California in Australia.
“He’s a No. 1 fan of the program,” Trey said. “Coach Rolovich honored him with the team celebrating his 10th birthday. This was a dream come true for him.”
The players gathered to sing “Happy Birthday.” Then they asked Jacob to hike the football to the quarterbacks when the offense practiced against the scout defense.
Trey, a retired Army colonel, gazed in proud silence as Jacob ran to reset plays. It was a couple of years ago, in the midst of intensive chemo treatments, that Jacob was bedridden. The leukemia cells had attacked his bones, making it difficult to sit up straight or walk. When there were complications with scar tissue within the bones, Jacob was moved to Shriners Hospitals for Children to learn how to walk again.
“Even in tough times, he was brave to his parents,” Trey said. “He never felt sorry for himself. He pushed through.”
During his treatments, Jacob drew inspiration from the Warriors. On Friday, it was Jacob who set the example.
“He shows you can be as strong as you need to be under the circumstances,” Rolovich said. “It’s a good reminder for our guys and, hopefully, somewhat humbling, how lucky they are and how grateful they should be for this opportunity (to play football) and really not take anything for granted.”
After the two-hour practice, the Warriors thanked Jacob for attending.
“He can come out whenever he wants,” Rolovich said. “Jacob is part of our family now.”
He’s an inspiration to our family and everyone around him.” Trey Johnson