WHEN BILL STRUZZI ARRIVED AT ITHACA COLLEGE FIVE YEARS AGO, HE WAS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER WIDE-EYED FRESHMAN.
"I was just glad to be playing college football and be at such a prestigious and well-known school," says Bill Struzzi.
HE DEVELOPED INTO ONE OF THE TEAM'S DEFENSIVE STARS AND HELPED JUMPSTART THE BOMBERS RUN TO THE 2005 NCAA PLAYOFFS.
BUT A NAGGING LEG INJURY FINALLY PROMPTED A VISIT TO THE DOCTOR. THE NEWS WAS MUCH WORSE THAN ANYONE IMAGINED. THE 20-YEAR OLD HAD TESTICULAR CANCER.
"I thought it was a groin injury during the season and then we thought it was a hernia and to hear that was the last thing they were telling me it would be, the last thing me and my family were expecting."
BILLY ENDURED FOUR ROUNDS OF CHEMOTHERAPY. HE LOST 30 POUNDS AND SAYS HE WOKE UP EVERY DAY FEELING LIKE HE HAD A HANGOVER. BUT THROUGH IT ALL, HE KEPT A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
Coach Mike Welch says, "Billy didn't even blink. He just said hey I'm going to beat this and what's the next step."
HIS TOUGHNESS PAID OFF SEVEN MONTHS LATER WHEN HE WAS DECLARED CANCER FREE FOLLOWING SURGERY TO REMOVE THE LYMPH NODES IN HIS STOMACH.
"I just had surgery so I couldn't really get up and jump around, but in my mind I was just relieved to know the whole thing was over."
"Just months after being given a clean bill of health, it appeared as though Billy's football future was at an all-time high. But that's when life made him deal with another cruel reality. This time, dealing with the unexpected death of his father."
"I wasn't even getting over the fact that I was just recovering from cancer and then that comes and that was something that was even more unexpected than cancer.
ONCE AGAIN, BILLY'S TEAMMATES RALLIED AROUND HIM. AND THIS YEAR, BILLY MADE IT BACK ON THE FIELD FOR HIS SENIOR SEASON AS THE BOMBERS DEFENSIVE CAPTAIN.
"This is like paradise. Last year was a tough year and now being able to just come hang out with my buddies every afternoon and put the pads on is just the best thing I can imagine."
AND HE DEFINITELY DESERVES IT. IN ITHACA, JUSTIN HOROWITZ, ACTION SPORTS.