Teen's cancer battle an inspiration for Tigers, Swinney - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Teen's cancer battle an inspiration for Tigers, Swinney

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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) – Sitting at his Summerville kitchen table, it looks like Christmas morning for Erik Simao. More meaningful than the pile of orange and white jerseys, shirts, hats and golf balls are the memories that go with them. 

"My love for Clemson started when I was probably eight years old," said Simao. 

Eleven whole years ago, ironically, that was the same year he was diagnosed with brain cancer for the first time. He's now 19 years old, he's dealt with four different bouts of cancer. His recent diagnosis is grim, but his spirit was anything but. 

"It's been pretty tough, but friends and family help me through it," said Simao. 

Included in that unit is his Clemson Tiger family. You know you've made it when, before a prime time match-up with Georgia Tech, Dabo Swinney's first stop as he steps on the field is Simao's wheelchair. 

"I knew we'd see the game," said Simao. "I did not know we'd meet most of the coaches and Dabo. It was very cool, they all had something for me and said hello." 

 The local organization Courageous Kids first heard about Simao's battle and set up a trip for him to go to Clemson. The Tigers athletics department has taken care of the rest.

Three trips later to see his favorite team play and Simao has struck up friendships that will last him forever. 

"It's a privilege any time I get a chance to help someone smile; it's a blessing for me more than him," said Swinney.  "I've met him a few times, it's great to see him enjoy the game, the environment, meet a lot of people."

One of those people is head basketball coach Brad Brownell and head baseball coach Jack Leggett. 

"It was unbelievable for us to watch" said Simao's father, Ed. "Every coach came down and gave him a shirt, hat, golf balls. Each team, each sport – it was fantastic." 

Through treatment and fatigue, through diagnosis and mental strain, more than a game, it's an escape for Simao. 

"Having Clemson as an aside is awesome. It gives you something to look forward to. When you get a break from treatments and doctors, it's a nice thing to look forward to," said Simao.   

The Tigers are providing motivation and inspiration. Swinney's motto is "all in" and he's certainly bought in to Simao's motto, "believe." 

"He's having a tough battle; my prayers are with him and his family. To see a young man continue to fight, live and have a great spirit about him is a great example to all of us," said Swinney. 

The Tigers have surprised Simao, too; they haven't lost a game that he's attended.

  • Scott Eisberg

    Email: seisberg@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile

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