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DREAMING THROUGH A NIGHTMARE: Even during tough times, David Crockett football player Andres Huerta has his eyes on the prize

While he was roaming the halls of David Crockett High School as a lanky sophomore without a care in the world, Andres Huerta didn’t yet know it was a dream of his to play college football.
Once new Crockett football coach Jeremy Bosken convinced Huerta to come out for spring practice, however, the baby-faced teenager fell in love with the game.
With his high school football career over, Huerta has an opportunity to realize his dream, but first he will have to go through an all-too-familiar nightmare for some people.
Huerta was complaining about discomfort for a couple of weeks and after a couple of visits to the doctor, he was sent to Niswonger Children’s hospital. Huerta wasn’t sure what the problem was, but it didn’t sound good as he made his way through the hospital.
“I went over to St. Jude’s and everyone was patting me on the back and stuff and I still didn’t know; it was weird,” he said.
After filling out the needed paperwork and getting his bloodwork done, the doctor came in and gave him his prognosis.
The 17-year old had cancer. But even at such a young age, Huerta has already done his studying and knows what he has to do in order to defeat the C-word.
“Cancer is a thing that will kill you mentally, so you have to be mentally strong,” Huerta said. “It’s just a bump in the road, just like football, overcoming so many things, football has helped me a lot with all the things we have had to overcome as a football team, it’s just another bump in the road that I have to overcome.”
Huerta is used to overcoming the odds, helping the Crockett football team defeat Tennessee High for the first time in school history and helping them defeat Morristown East in what many thought was a lost season because of a postseason ban.
Even in his first season on the gridiron, as a wide receiver, prepared Huerta for the future, as he made the flip to defense and was now aware of what a wide receiver might have in their toolbox, because he’d been in their shoes before.
But while many things have come naturally to him on the football field, it was the hard work that the defensive back’s coach, Mike Lewis, saw first hand, that set Huerta apart from others.
“He was one of the key leaders on the team,” Lewis said. “Andres is probably one of the best liked players on the team, because of his leadership, not because of buddy-buddy. Kids respect someone when they see them working after practice on drills.”
That hard work is something that Lewis thinks will help Huerta overcome his latest obstacle.
“It’s a lot like being a defensive back, you’ll get burnt every play, but it’s how you recover,” Lewis said. “These battles that are created by whatever – whether it’s fate, injury or what have you – it’s how you deal with it.”
It’s sayings like these and other stories that Lewis shares with his team about his time as an Army Ranger that Huerta says helped him prepare.
“I think the mentality that coach Lewis put into my head for football, it has really transitioned over to what I am going through now,” Huerta said. “The way I play football, I have to be strong and fight through this. I am not going to let this hold me back, I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me because, at the end of the day, after everything is done, I am going to be fine and I am not going to let this hold me back from my dream of playing college football.”
That dream has been offered to him by NCAA Division III Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He received a text message from their coach just hours after he received his cancer diagnosis, notifying him that the team was interested. Also that day, Huerta received the news that he had bumped his ACT score up four points. That good news outweighed the bad news he had just received.
“When I heard about the cancer, I was nervous and a little scared, but then I got my ACT score back and the offer, and I was just not worried about the cancer, I just wanted to enjoy the ACT score and the fact that I got an offer,” Huerta said.
The cancer had not spread, so he had surgery to remove it last week. Next up for the high school senior, who will turn 18 on Feb. 12, will be four to five months of chemotherapy.
During that time, Huerta will lose his hair as a side effect. But his friends have assured him that they will shave their heads as a show of support for him.
That type of support from his friends and family, along with his faith, have helped Huerta mentally overcome the disease.
“Honestly, I am pretty big on God, so honestly cancer doesn’t scare me, because I know that God is bigger than anything, so it doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t faze me, I just have faith that I am going to be fine and in February I’ll sign and I’ll be going off to college,” Huerta said.