Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle views the friendship as his chance to be a kid again. But 7-year-old Brody Stephens looks at Doyle as a motivating factor in a battle in which the odds are stacked against him.
Stephens was in remission for four years and 11 months from acute myeloid leukemia when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last December. Doctors told Stephens’ parents that their son only had about a 40 percent chance of beating the leukemia.
That’s where Doyle comes into the picture. Viewed as a long shot to make the NFL coming out of Western Kentucky, Doyle is now headed into his fourth season. He has developed a special bond with Stephens, visiting him in the hospital at least once a week and talking with him daily via FaceTime.
“It’s tough,” Doyle said. “Brody, he brings me so much joy that it gets lost in all this. To see how tough he is, he fights through things and bounces back like it’s nothing. He attacks every obstacle that he’s already overcome and every obstacle that he’s going to overcome. That’s amazing.”
Doyle met Stephens while on vacation in Florida in March 2014. Stephens and his three brothers were playing football on the beach when Doyle joined them. The tight end spent a “couple of hours” playing catch with the boys, and he ended the day by autographing a football and giving it to Brody.
Stephens appeared to be on his way to being cancer-free. But symptoms of something wrong — bruising and getting tired easily — surfaced last fall. Stephens’ father, Jason, was tipped off that something wasn’t right during a basketball tournament.
“Brody doesn’t like being taken out of a game no matter if they’re winning or losing by 20 points,” Jason Stephens said. “He took himself out two minutes into the game and didn’t want to go back in no matter what. I just knew something wasn’t right. He was diagnosed with AML in December. Brody is the only kid at Riley [Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health] that they’ve seen beat one form of cancer to get another form.”