War­riors’ No. 1 fan has 10th birth­day wish come true

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - By Stephen Tsai st­sai@starad­ver­tiser.com

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

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