Jesuit High football player returns to field cancer free after year-long battle

Tucker Witte lives for the Jesuit High School football team.

"I've just got so much love for the game and so much love for my brothers," the Tigers junior defensive lineman said. 

And every day, Witte can't help but hear the ringing tones from the school's bell tower located next to the field he plays on. But, even those tones sound nothing as sweet as the bell he got to ring himself last week. 

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"There is no other way to put it," Witte said. "I had been watching that bell before every appointment and watching it on the way out of every appointment for the last 10 months." 

A year ago, Witte was playing in the Tigers' spring football game when he developed what he thought at the time was a black eye. 


"I thought 'Oh, we'll play through the spring season. We'll let it heal after, and it will be alright,'" he remembered thinking to himself. 

The swelling, however, never subsided, and it led to the diagnosis that came at the defensive lineman like a blind side hit. 

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"Your life flashes before your eyes," said Witte. "You think 'Oh my gosh, how is this going to affect me? How is this going to go on? Am I going to die?'"

The 16-year-old was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), and Witte's doctors recommended chemotherapy treatments. But, he opted for a different treatment option. 

Witte went with an option that would require months of self-administered chemotherapy injections, but it would allow him to have a chance to play football in the Fall. The injections, though, would come at a cost. 

"They were tough. I like to downplay them a lot, but they were tough," Witte admitted. 


He began to feel the impact of his treatment and lost 15-20 pounds. Fighting alongside their No. 94 was his family – Witte's parents and his older sister, Ingalls. 

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"Sitting in the hospital after his initial diagnosis, we didn't know what was to come," Ingalls said. "But seeing the bell in the treatment wing, we had that be a beacon." 

Despite the treatments, Witte remained adamant that he would suit up for the Tigers for his junior season. His coaches, meanwhile, weren't so sure. 

"In the back of my mind, and what I was telling our defensive coaches was, ‘we are not going to have Tucker for the season,’" said Tigers head coach Matt Thompson. 

Receiving weekly platelet tests to make sure he was fit enough to put on a pair of pads, Witte made good on his promise to play his junior season.  


"The kid's resilience was something else," said Thompson. 

Though he played in nine of the Tigers' 13 games last year, Witte's treatments continued to take their toll. 

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"There were some Friday nights where I knew I would be going home to a chemotherapy shot," he said. "And I knew, going into that weekend, I wouldn't be able to celebrate with my brothers after a big win."

They may have taken their pound of flesh, but the chemotherapy injections did their job. Just one day before Jesuit's football team was set to play this year's Spring football game, Witte rang the bell as he walked out of the pediatric cancer ward for the final time. 

"It sounded pretty sweet," he said. 

Just one year after learning of his diagnosis, Witte was walking back onto the field, this time, as a team captain. But most importantly, he walked back onto the field cancer free. 


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