Breast cancer awareness month: Football coach gives his players a lesson in wearing pink

AUSTIN (KXAN) — October. It’s the month you see more pink pop up everywhere.

The universal color for breast cancer helps raise awareness and money for breast cancer research.

Even some of the toughest men taking the hardest hits were sporting the feminine color during the NFL game last Sunday night. You also see it when the younger players take the field on Friday nights.

“You go to a high school game and everybody’s got pink,” said Joe Frank Martinez, the head football coach at Travis High School. “You know these guys don’t even know what this means. They just want to wear it to look cool.”

For the past several seasons he’s been teaching his players it is not just a fashion statement.

This week the assignment off the field was writing a letter to someone they know touched by cancer.

Junior linebacker Nicolas Balderas is waiting to give it to his 10-year-old sister. “To my dear sister Lilly: Your struggle with cancer affected everyone, especially me. I love you more than I could ever explain,” read Balderas.

He will choose a game this month to dedicate to his little sister who was diagnosed with lymphoma at age seven, and before he hits the field he must give her the letter.

“Pretty sure she’ll be a little surprised,” said Balderas.

She is in remission now.

“We’re fearful everyday that it might come back,” said Balderas. “It’s just something we’ve got to live with because it never really goes away.”

The Travis High players also learned a very tough lesson last season about breast cancer. In October before a game, the team honored a mother on the field who was battling the disease. She was very involved with the booster club, and a few days later she passed away.

If players do not know anyone touched by cancer they can write their letter to a woman who inspires them.

For defensive end and running back Elijah Ganous that woman is his grandmother. “I just want you to know that you are my rock. You have never failed me,” read Ganous. “You always have my back and I just wanted you to know I love you and that you are appreciated.”

It is an exercise that hits each player a little bit different, and makes the color pink a lot more powerful.

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