When it comes to fighting lung cancer, everyone is on the same team.
Although a former Atlanta Falcon founded the Chris Draft Family Foundation, a Patriots fan won its 2017 Super Bowl Challenge and is headed to Houston to cheer for New England.
Draft didn’t seem to mind they will be rooting for the Falcons foes as he tweeted congratulations.
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“Not at all, because we’re tackling lung cancer and that’s so much bigger than what’s going on in this game,” Draft said Wednesday morning on his way to the airport and a flight to Texas.
Jeremy Smallwood, who is in a three-year battle with Stage 4 lung cancer, raised $15,000 toward the cause through the help of Lahey Medical Center in his home state of Massachusetts.
“We are beyond excited to be going to the Super Bowl especially if it means that we raise so much money for a great cause that is also so close to our hearts,” Jeremy and his wife, Amanda Seward, wrote on the foundation’s webpage. “We had a ton of fun while doing it!”
Tuesday, Draft visited Lahey to announce the winner of the contest.
The Smallwoods and many of his nurses, doctors and supporters donned Patriots jerseys for the occasion.
One of them held a red, white and blue sign that read “Team Jeremy” as he spoke at the microphones.
“I mean, I’ve been through a lot, and to be here with all these people and to be going... this Thursday coming up is just incredible,” Jeremy Smallwood said at Tuesday’s announcement.
The linebacker, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1998, also played for the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins before ending his NFL career in 2010.
In 2011, Draft founded Team Draft with his sweetheart, Keasha Rutledge as she battled lung cancer having never been a smoker.
The offshoot of the foundation is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and raising money for research.
They married exactly one month before she died on Dec. 27, 2011.
Draft told those gathered at the hospital that it was his wife’s dream to go to the Super Bowl. She made the trip the year she was diagnosed.
Draft’s memories of the trip inspired the Super Bowl Challenge.
“Keasha’s legacy of hope lives on through the Super Bowl Challenge team and we are grateful to all who have contributed and continue to contibute to lung cancer awareness, research, treatment and patient advocacy efforts,” Draft stated in a news release.
Smallwood said his doctor and nurses helped him raise the money that earned him the trip.
“I never could have imagined so many people would get behind us on this,” he said.
Smallwood is on an immunotherapy regimen and said he’s feeling well and has been without major pain for almost two years.
He has this message for others battling the deadly disease: “Don’t expect the worst. you might actually have a good amount of time and life that’s quality life.”