Sports can mean so much beyond the glitz and glam of gameday, and sometimes it takes a heartwarming story to make us step back and remember why we watch and play in the first place.
Just ask RB Fred Jackson.
On November 2, Jackson was in attendance at the Mount Saint Joseph Division-III women's basketball game in Cincinnati – a game that was moved up a month so that Lauren Hill, a freshman with inoperable brain cancer, could live out her dream of playing college hoops.
Hill was diagnosed in November of 2013 with a rare form of cancer known as DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) and was told she had at most two years to live. Even still, she committed to playing basketball and didn't let the news stop her.
Jackson caught wind of the story a few weeks ago and as an advocate for D-III sports, he made a point to be at the game. He said he talked to Hill's parents at the event and let them know that he and his foundation D3-Nation wanted to do anything to help promote awareness for the disease.
"We wanted to be a part of it in any way that we could," Jackson said. "We wanted to do some things and let her know that we were proud of what she was doing and what she meant for fighting this disease."
In front of a crowd of over 10,000, Hill had four points in her team's 66-55 win. Each time having the game stopped so everyone in attendance could give her a standing ovation.
"It was tremendous to see how much support that she had not only from her school and her sport but from the opposing team," Jackson told buffalobills.com. "You look at all the girls that were playing against her, none of them had dry eyes either. There was a lot of respect from everybody in the building."
Beyond showing his support for Hill and D-III athletics, Jackson took the game as a fatherly opportunity to show his son Braeden what sports can mean and how powerful they can be. His son is getting to an age where he can understand the magnitude of the event and Braeden was proud to be a part of the moment, he said.
"That's the number one goal [as a father]," he said. "To show how you can reach people as a sports figure and not just let sports be about going out and competing against other people. But how it can be used as a tool to get information out there on all kinds of things and how she was using that to get everyone to help fight against the disease."
Jackson also said that event felt more uplifting than somber.
"It was a celebration of somebody who is willing to fight and continue to see a dream come true," He added. "Everybody there was there to celebrate Lauren. It was a great atmosphere and everybody got that opportunity to see her fulfill her dream."
Help support Lauren by using the hashtag #Layup4Lauren on Twitter.
From Division III to the NFL, Fred Jackson has seen it all in his football career. Congrats on a remarkable career.