SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Andre Jenkins wasn’t even an NFL fan when he discovered Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back James Conner, who provided inspiration for the Savannah teenager.
"I guess it was just I guess a sign from God to watch TV that day,’’ said Andre, “and pay attention to what he had to say.’’
"It made Andre feel that he was accomplished,’’ added his grandmother, Janice Jenkins. “Because he had now seen this accomplished man that had done something beyond the illness and that broke through. And that gave him hope.’’
Conner is a cancer survivor, having overcome Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
That is the same disease Andre was diagnosed with during his junior year of high school.
"It was difficult,’’ says Andre. “But just to see him make it and be an NFL star just pushed me every day even harder to just say, you've got to keep doing it.’’
Andre made it through six months of treatment with support from his family and was in remission when Make-a-Wish Georgia let him know they had arranged a meeting with Connor, an inspiring trip to Pittsburgh he was able to share with his father.
"It was like going on a roller coaster for the first time,’’ said Andre’s father, whose name also is Andre but goes by AJ. “It was that exciting to see my son smiling.
“To see him out of where he was at, to see him with life back in him again, see him wanting to experience more than what he already was doing, that's hat excited me.’’
"When I met James, it was like meeting a superhero,’’ added Andre. “He’s a guy I really didn't know anything about, just saw him across the TV talking about his own cancer story and I just said I wanted to meet him.’’
The meeting turned into a relationship, with Andre and Conner staying in touch via text.
It also resulted in Andre's family remaining grateful to Make-a-Wish Georgia.
"It was unbelievable to know,’’ said Andre’s grandfather, whose name also is Andre, “that someone would take the time to do something for one of ours.’’
"It wasn't just him who needed help, the whole family needed help,’’ added Janice. “And they all stepped in to help up, the doctors, the navigators, everybody to make us all whole and so I'm so grateful. I'm grateful for not only it is happening, but I'm grateful for the people that were surrounding us to help us get through it.’’
And Andre shares that gratitude.
"It is wonderful to have people sitting out there watching over you and you don’t even know it,’’ he said. “Just getting that phone call and saying, ‘hey what do you want to do, what do you want to get out of this?’ It was amazing.’’