Chapman University football player, who battled cancer twice, nominated for Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award

Jessica De Nova Image
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
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A Chapman University Football player said the support of his teammates carried him through two bouts of leukemia. Through it all, he never gave up. Now, he's been nominated for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- A Chapman University lineman, who battled leukemia twice, is grateful to be alive to watch his team win its first-ever home playoff game.

Hunter Spriggs, No. 77, had his first bout against cancer when he was just a 20-year-old in peak physical health.

"Eat healthy, work out, run all the time, great shape, swimming three miles every other day. It's like, 'What, me? Cancer? I'm healthy. What are you talking about,"' Spriggs said.

Spriggs fought through it, ready for his next season, but a year later, exhaustion and chest pain kicked in.

"My leukemia came back, but it was way more aggressive. I had two different types," Spriggs said.

This fight pushed Spriggs's senior season back one year.

"I'm stuck in this 15 by 15 room right, and I can't leave it for months at a time," Spriggs said.

His little brother gave him a second chance with a bone marrow transplant.

"We joke we're one in the same person now because I do have his DNA. My blood, bone marrow is all his," Spriggs said.

The Chapman senior said the chemotherapy before that surgery almost killed him.

"You're basically on the verge of death. You are absolutely on the verge of death," Spriggs said.

His team provided camaraderie.

"If the guys weren't sending me stuff, you know, and constantly supporting me I don't know if I'd be here talking to you," Spriggs said. "We're not accepting failure as an option. I got family, teammates depending on me. I'm not letting them down," Spriggs said.

The Panthers head football coach Bob Owens saw Spriggs put in the reps, at times, floored by infection because of his low immune system, but always helping his team where he could. Owens said Spriggs was always a leader.

"No one has an excuse not to give their very best every day when they look across and there is their teammate and he's doing everything that they're expected to do and he's doing it with a smile on his face," Owens said.

With his cancer in remission, Spriggs had the will.

"I really wanted to get back in the field or at least, just try. 'Can I even do this? Is this even possible,"' Spriggs said.

That leadership and determination earned Spriggs a nomination for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Humbled, Spriggs said it wasn't his work that got him there. He thanked his team on and off the field.

"I'm the vessel. They're the ones pushing this because without them I wouldn't have been able to do it," Spriggs said.

Spriggs finds out at the end of the season whether he's among the three winners of the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Winners will be recognized at the Fiesta Bowl and take home $5,000 to go toward their school's general scholarship fund.