BATON ROUGE -- Hours before LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell hit Dwayne Bowe with an 11-yard touchdown pass to clinch a 16-13 overtime win over third-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Tigers had already come up winners in the eyes of 10-year old Colton Tant.
Early last week Colton had been admitted to the hospital for a routine surgery to remove his tonsils, a procedure that many kids undergo on a daily basis. However, for Colton, this surgery proved to be anything but routine as doctors found a mass in the back of the young boys' throat.
While hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, the doctors discovered that Colton had Burkitt 's lymphoma, a very rare form of cancer in children. Immediately, he was taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital to begin treatment for this sickness.
After going through a week's worth of treatment, Colton was allowed to leave the hospital for a brief period of time for what he thought was a break. Just a little getaway before having to get back to what will unfortunately be his home-away-from-home in the coming months.
Little did Colton know that what he was going to experience in the next couple hours could provide more therapy and healing power than months of treatment or medicine may offer. You see, Colton's parents were taking the 10-year old to the Grandview Marriott in Birmingham, the headquarters for the LSU football team that weekend as the Tigers prepared for their game against third-ranked Alabama.
While Colton may live in Gordo, Ala., he's a Tiger all the way. His dad is a native of Slidell, La., and had been re-located to Alabama several years ago. Despite the move to "enemy" territory, Colton and the rest of his family had remained devout LSU fans and followed that Tigers at every opportunity. They even had tickets to Saturday's game against the Crimson Tide.
All decked out in purple and gold as he entered the hotel lobby, Colton was greeted by members of the LSU football team. Head coach Les Miles presented him with a No. 5 jersey with his name on the back. Andrew Whitworth, LSU's mammoth 6-foot-7, 325-pound offensive tackle handed him an LSU football helmet that had been signed by the team. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell and defensive tackle Kyle Williams shook Colton's hand, gave him some encouraging words and told the youngster that they'd be playing for him on Saturday (against Alabama).
Pictures were taken, video cameras were rolling, and there wasn't a dry eye in sight as one little boy, a sick child with a terrible disease, had his wish granted that day.
For most LSU fans just that experience alone would have been enough. However, for Colton, what happened next shows the true meaning of human spirit and would make any mom or dad proud.
While the players went to their rooms to put up their luggage, Colton and his family remained in the lobby still taking in the moment, one that was sure to provide the family with memories of a lifetime.
Minutes later, the players begin to return downstairs, on their way to their weekly Friday night chapel and prayer service. On this particular Friday night, there would be a special guest, a guest of honor if you will, as on their way into the banquet room where the prayer service was held, several members of the LSU team walked over and invited Colton to join them.
What took place inside that room was truly inspirational. The team gathered around the 10-year old, all put a hand on him and prayed for him. They prayed for his health, prayed for his strength and most of all prayed for him to beat this terrible disease.
"We knew he was devastated and we wanted to be supportive of him," Whitworth said. "We just wanted him to know that we were thinking about him during the game. He went to chapel with us Friday night and we prayed for him. It was a neat experience to be able to put a smile on his face. He's definitely somebody we'll remember for the love he has for us and being able to be supportive for him."
For Colton, that Friday provided a highlight in what was surely a very difficult week for him and his family.
For the Tigers, a team that already had experienced devastation earlier in the year in forms of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it once again proved how fragile life really is and showed that there's a great deal more to this 8-1 team than a bunch of good football players.
Time and time again this year, members of the LSU football team have stepped up to lend a helping hand. Whether it be volunteering at a shelter for hurricane victims or gathering food and clothes for those displaced from their homes due to the storms of late August and early September, this team has done it.
Now, on the eve of what was the biggest game of the year for the Tigers, a clash against the third-ranked Crimson Tide, nothing was more important that Friday night than putting a smile on Colton's face and hoping that just for a brief time, he felt like a healthy 10-year old again.