Green Wave going pink
NATCHEZ — The old sports saying “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back,” will be put to the test by Cathedral freshman Andrew Beesley and the rest of his Green Wave teammates tonight.
Cathedral will leave its normal green, home jerseys in the locker room and take the field as the Pink Wave against Resurrection Catholic School, with each player sporting the name of someone close to them who has suffered from cancer on the back of new pink jerseys.
Beesley said he would be proud to have the words “Coach Beesley” across his back tonight representing his grandfather Ken Beesley, whose large B-cell lymphoma is now in remission.
Andrew said he saw his grandfather’s toughness when he was diagnosed approximately two-and-a-half years ago, and he is excited about the opportunity to wear that name on his back.
“We knew he would fight through it,” Andrew said. “He’s strong and tough, and we stayed by his side and helped him through it. It feels good representing someone who has fought through it.”
Ken said the sentiment from his grandson would mean a great deal.
“He’s my grandson, and I think the world of him,” Ken said. “I love him, and I know he loves me too, even though he’s kind of shy to show it sometimes.”
Ken, who is a math teacher at Cathedral, said he faced his diagnoses like he would a difficult math problem — head on with logic.
“I’m a math teacher, so I’m a realist, and I was accepting of the facts,” he said. “They told me what I had, and I asked them, ‘What do I do to try to get better?’”
Now, two-and-a-half years later, Ken is trying to find a pink shirt to wear to the game tonight and said he kind of liked the pink uniforms, even though they don’t exactly fit his old-school taste.
“I was surprised,” he said. “They look better than what I thought. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Cathedral assistant coach Craig Beesley, who is Ken’s son and Andrew’s father, said tonight would be one for his entire family to remember.
“It’s special having my son honoring my father,” he said. “I know my father will be glad to see it.”
But some Cathedral players, like sophomore Alex Weadock, will don their jerseys with heavy hearts.
Weadock will wear the name “Uncle Bob” on the back of his No. 8 jersey tonight for his uncle, Bob Foley, who died Aug. 12 after losing his battle with cancer.
“It was tough watching him, especially for my mom, because it was her brother,” Weadock said. “He was a funny guy that always made jokes. I used to sit and watch the Saints with him.”
Weadock hopes seeing the pink jerseys and seeing “Uncle Bob” on the back of his will be something his mother, Rose Mary, really enjoys.
“She’s going to be thrilled,” he said.
The Pink Wave Project is the brainchild of Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing, and he said he is just as excited as his players to see D’Evereux Stadium covered with pink tonight.
“I myself have had three grandparents and numerous aunts and uncles (suffer with cancer),” Rushing said. “To do something like this makes you feel good.”
Rushing said the school has sold more than 1,000 pink shirts for fans to wear and all the money raised goes to Cathedral’s Relay for Life team.
But the head coach will not allow a new uniform to distract his team from winning its first MHSAA Region 4-1A game.
“We’ve had a very good week of practice,” he said. “If anything it’s motivation, although that’s not the purpose. The kids feel like they want to put on a show.”
Junior offensive lineman Bayard Watts said Cathedral is starting to become a bit like the Oregon University football program, with all its different uniform combinations. But for him and his family, the pink uniforms hold an important meaning.
Watts will have his aunt Margaret Meyers’ name on his jersey. Meyers is a breast cancer survivor.
“She’s cured, and she’s just fine,” he said. “It made me sad, but she made it out, and this means a lot to me and probably means a lot to her.”
Craig said he was honored to be a part of the Pink Wave Project as a coach on Cathedral’s staff, and he thinks Friday night is not just for Cathedral.
“I think this is something great Ron has put together,” Craig said. “We are honoring special people. Cancer has no boundaries, and this is not a Cathedral thing, it’s a community thing.”
Cancer does not see jersey colors or rivalries either, and junior linebacker Matthew Rymer is proof. Rymer will have “Dunaway” on his jersey in recognition of former Trinity Episcopal Day School athlete Kyle Dunaway, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma his senior year at Trinity.
“He lived up the road, and I used to go watch football games and root him on,” Rymer said. “It was rough what (the Dunaways) went through, and I’m glad he fought this thing and is doing well.”
Rymer said Dunaway would not be able to make it to the game, because he is at college, but he knows the Dunaway family will be in attendance.
The night is not just for players and coaches, either. Cathedral’s training staff will also sport pink, and trainer Erin Hicks said she is representing a close friend.
Hicks, a senior at Cathedral, said she considers Beth Mallett to be her role model. She has watched Mallett fight pancreatic cancer, and she admires the way she fights.
“She’s been through a lot of tragedy, and she always stays positive. It makes me want to be that positive.”
Hicks said she thought it was cool when Rushing said the trainers would be wearing pink as well.
“I feel like I’m a part of the team,” she said. “I love being out here probably more than they do. I love being with them, and I’m glad I’m able to do the same thing they do.”
Cathedral (1-0) and Resurrection (1-0) will kick off at 7 p.m. and there will be an awareness walk around the field beginning at 5:30 p.m. Rushing said donations are welcome but not necessary at the walk. Rushing said he believes that Resurrection would also have something on its uniforms supporting the fight against cancer as well.