by Wes Frahm
Happy to be lacing up his cleats
It's three days after Michigan Tech's 48-16 setback to Northern Michigan in the rivals' annual gridiron battle for the Miner's Cup. There aren't too many smiles around the Huskies locker room. Well, maybe one—the team's starting free safety and leading tackler, David Carmody.
He's not smiling because of the results last weekend or the 0-3 start by the football team, which had much higher expectations. He's just happy to be lacing up his cleats and snapping his chinstrap for another chance to play football. Having been diagnosed with cancer at age ten, the Newberry native has a perspective on life different from most college seniors'.
"He's a really good leader on our football team," says Tom Kearly, Michigan Tech's head football coach. "He doesn't say a whole lot, but the way he handles himself and his work ethic speak volumes."
There was no trick-or-treating on October 31 in 1996 when doctors in Marquette dropped the big "C" on the Carmody family.
"My heart just stopped when the doctor said leukemia," recalled David's mother, Cyndi, of that Halloween thirteen years ago. "I couldn't say anything, and I was thinking the worst because we didn't know exactly how bad it was."
Fortunately, the cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in which white blood cells are overproduced in bone marrow) was caught relatively early. David was considered to be in remission just three months after diagnosis, but the ordeal was far from over. The treatment for leukemia would last three years, including daily doses of medicine, weekly blood tests, twice monthly drives to Marquette for chemotherapy, and too many spinal taps to count. Not to mention the worry that the cancer would come back. "We sat on pins and needles every time the doctor came in with the results, wondering what he was going to tell us, hoping the numbers weren't worse than the last time," said Cyndi.
David missed fourth grade and was home schooled by his grandmother, a retired teacher. When he returned to fifth grade, the school changed the rule to allow all students to wear hats so David could hide a balding head. He still had to be careful. The illness (or treatment, rather) kept white blood cell and platelet counts low, kept him in bed sick a lot of days, and kept the future all-conference safety away from physical contact in sports.
Looking back, the cancer survivor praises his family. "They were so supportive and made it as easy on me as possible. I didn't really know how big a deal it was at the time, but I think it's really made me appreciate being able to now live a normal life and play football."
The Carmodys celebrated the end of the treatment on January 2, 2000, and David was back to normal by high school. Well, almost. "They said my body stopped growing the first two years of chemo, so I always say I should be 6-5, 225 pounds, and playing defensive end instead of safety," jokes the 6-1, 200-pound defensive back.
David excelled at Newberry High School, where he participated in basketball, hockey, and track in addition to starring on the football field. He was the team's starting quarterback and safety and earned All-Straits Area Conference at both positions during his career. His success on the field and interest in engineering made it a natural fit for him to continue his education in Houghton.
Michigan Tech has been happy to have David both at safety and as a student. He led the team in tackles for the second straight season. His ninety-seven tackles a year ago helped him earn All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Second Team honors. He also accumulated a 3.52 grade point average in civil engineering on his way to graduating in December 2009.
"He's an amazing kid," says his mom. "He was so brave going through the treatment, and he's really grown up and made us proud."
Coach Kearly echoes the sentiments. "David's the kind of person you want in your program. He's a great student, he's a great example for younger players, and he gives us everything he's got every time."