by Marjorie Acosta
The Miami Redskins football team prepares to battle on the football field every week. But there’s no drill to prepare them when one of their own had the biggest battle of his life.
Jose Figueroa is a starting safety for the Miami Redskins, at only nine years old; he’s also a cancer survivor. Jose was diagnosed with leukemia when he was four years old. Throughout his treatment, which included extensive chemotherapy, he took comfort in watching his favorite sport: football. It’s been a tough road, but he’s been in remission for over a year now. Just a few months ago, Jose learned he’d finally get the chance to play. “It feels good. It feels like it’s my life” says Jose about living out his dream.
His older brother, Jose “Chico” Figueroa, taught him everything he knows. For Figueroa, watching his little brother beat cancer was overwhelming; but watching him live out his dream on the gridiron was truly remarkable. He remembers how it felt the first time his brother played saying, “He shocked me. I didn’t know he had all that in him. He’s out here tackling and hitting people hard. It’s a shocker to me.”
Jose’s strength has resonated with his team. He’s not just a teammate, he’s an inspiration. His story strikes a chord with his coach Keith Phillips who is also a cancer survivor. Coach Phillips finds strength in Jose saying, “Jose is an angel as far as I’m concerned, disguised as a kid, that’s all.”
The feeling out on the field is unlike any other. Jose cherishes his team just as much as they cherish him. His teammates dedicate every game and practice to Jose, even wearing his jersey number, 24, on their helmets. Jose and his team have a strong connection on and off the field. They know each game may not end in a victory, but they’re grateful to have Jose. Jose’s teammates are well aware of the battle he’s faced, but they don’t treat him any differently. To them, Jose is a Miami Redskin, and always will be.