Chargers coach battle with cancer defined him

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Chargers coach Brandon Staley will be on the national stage Monday night for the first time when Los Angeles plays host to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The story will be predictable. How Staley went from Division III defensive coordinator to NFL head coach in five years.

But Staley, 38, also wants the attention to shift in another direction. Something more personal and real to him.

As the NFL kicks off its ‘Crucial Catch’ initiative, Staley would like everyone to know about his most important victory – being a cancer survivor after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma 14 years ago.

“I wouldn’t be the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers without my cancer journey. Cancer has been, if not the most important, one of the main reasons I’m here today, ”Staley said on Saturday. “I think what cancer does is it can bring out the best in you. I know it brought out the best in me.

Staley was in his first season as a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois in 2007 when doctors discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor on his right lung. The Perry, Ohio native underwent six months of chemotherapy treatments in Cleveland during offseason breaks. This was followed by six weeks of morning radiation therapy sessions in Chicago during the season so he could continue to train.

Cancer has also affected more than Brandon. Her mother, Linda, died of breast cancer in 2004. Bruce, her father, had thyroid cancer when Brandon was younger and completed his treatment for prostate cancer last year.

“You can’t do it yourself. I learned this by watching my mom and dad, ”Staley said. “I think a big part of fighting cancer is believing in yourself. Often times it is knowing that there are other examples that show you that you should believe. I got to see it with my mom and dad. I was lucky it was personal.

Jason Staley – the twin brother and younger brother of 2.5-minute-old Brandon – said his brother’s approach to beating cancer is very similar to his coaching philosophy and buy-in from those around him.

“He’s always had that special way of making you believe. Every time I was talking to him, he would explain to me, this is what happens, this is what I do, and this is how we’re going to beat this, ”said Jason Staley.

“The way he approached it was very methodical. There were no peaks or valleys. It was one treatment at a time; find the progress you can and keep getting stronger and better.

“His ability to stay in the present and not let it get too big was the catalyst for him. Not letting the past affect him is the same way he trains his players. He said, ‘I’m just going to compete, and I’m going to drive this thing into the ground,’ and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t.

Northern Illinois was the first stop on a coaching journey to Staley who was hired by the Chargers in January. After a second stint as defensive coordinator at John Carroll University in 2016, he coached linebackers in Chicago and Denver under Vic Fangio for three years before becoming defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. In one The Rams’ defense has gone from 13th to leading in the season.

Staley’s communication skills have garnered rave reviews from players. Defensive lineman Linval Joseph, who is in his 12th season, said Staley’s way of explaining his system and philosophy was the best he has seen in the league.

Joseph is not the only player who shares this sentiment.

“Coach Staley is very open. He brings it to us, his plan. He listens to us and he also sees how we see him. He asks how we see it, ”said security Derwin James. “We are constantly communicating, and that’s what makes him so great as a coach. It’s not just ‘Hey, you do it like that.’ These are the two ends of the stick.

Staley’s first victory as an NFL coach came on September 12, when the Chargers rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Washington football team 20-16. It was also the day of what would have been Linda Staley’s 64th birthday.

“It meant everything. It would have been the 18th birthday we celebrated without her, and it’s the first one that I haven’t been sad about, ”said Jason Staley. “As a brother, this is the best gift he could have given. She loved watching us play sports.

Jason Staley said seeing his brother have the platform to reach out and educate others about cancer awareness is more important than wins and losses on the pitch, especially during the league’s many cancer awareness programs. in October.

It goes back to when I was 12, sitting at a kitchen table and learning that their mother had breast cancer.

“His goal is for the 12-year-old kid who receives this news in 2021 to not have the same outcome as us,” said Jason Staley. “From a platform’s perspective, the most important thing is just its ability to make a difference and keep my mother’s memory and legacy alive.”

The Chargers enter Monday night’s game 2-1 after a thrilling 30-24 victory at Kansas City that gave them their first 2-1 start in nine years. While Justin Herbert has had a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks this season, the defense, where Staley still calls parts, has put in place the orders with take out.

The Raiders, who should have a huge continent of fans at Hollywood Park Stadium, are 3-0 for the first time since 2002. Derek Carr leads the league with 1,203 passing yards going into Week 4 and led Las Vegas to two overtime. wins.

While Staley is still emerging and adjusting to become an NFL head coach, he has already helped other people through their cancer journey. He met a Chargers season pass holder who was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at an event in April.

“You have to see more examples of why you should believe you can do it,” Staley said. “I hope that for me they can see somebody who – I’m just a kid from Perry, Ohio.” I was in Division III five years ago. You can live your dreams; you can do whatever you dream of if you believe in yourself.


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