Bulldogs using homecoming game to honor teammate battling cancerJordan Bauman isn’t playing football for UMD this season as he undergoes chemotherapy for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but has manned the sideline at almost every game and practice and still maintains a regular course load.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Jordan Bauman never asked for special attention or sympathy.
Never said, “How come?”
Or, “Why me?”
Bauman, 21, never intended to be an example, but what an example he turned out to be.
Bauman, a junior defensive end on the Minnesota Duluth football team, will be honored at Saturday’s homecoming game against Bemidji State as part of a “Tackle Cancer” fundraising event. Bauman isn’t playing this season as he undergoes chemotherapy for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but has manned the sideline at almost every UMD football game and practice and still maintains a regular course load.
“Jordan is tackling this head-on,” sophomore running Austin Sikorski said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what he is going through, but you would never know it from watching him. He is going about his normal routine like nothing ever happened. He’s an inspiration. This game is for him on Saturday, so hopefully we can come away with a win.”
This isn’t the first time Bauman has been through this.
He was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that originates from white blood cells, early in his junior year at prep power Stratford High School in central Wisconsin. Despite having a softball-sized tumor in his abdomen, through chemotherapy, Bauman recovered in time to play football that season and was officially declared cancer-free that spring.
In fall 2008, Bauman, a tight end and middle linebacker, helped lead Stratford to its sixth straight Division 6 state football title, playing for his uncle, Wisconsin high school hall of fame coach Cal Tackes. Bauman was recruited to UMD to play outside linebacker, but the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder joked, “I got too big.”
The Bulldogs moved him to defensive line and Bauman excelled, playing as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and starting six games last fall as UMD went 11-3 and advanced to its fourth straight NCAA Division II quarterfinals.
Then last summer things changed. Bauman began noticing lumps in his neck that didn’t go away, and in August, just before the start of UMD’s preseason camp, he learned the cancer had returned.
Bauman immediately began a more aggressive chemotherapy regimen and early test results are encouraging.
“I had full-time job and had workouts in the summer, so at first I thought I might be getting fatigued from that,” Bauman said. “But then midway through the summer I knew something wasn’t right. I had all those checkups since high school that always made me nervous, and I was finally getting over that fear it would come back, and then it came back. I guess I let my guard down, but having been through this once before, I knew it was treatable, so I’ve been trying to stay upbeat and confident. It’s another hurdle I have to get over.”
The Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund partnered with the Minnesota Football Coaches Association to have “Tackle Cancer” fundraising games this fall, with 150 high schools, as well as the University of St. Thomas and UMD, coming on board. The games already have raised more than $89,000.
When UMD coach Bob Nielson was first approached about hosting a cancer fundraiser, he immediately thought of one person and how one game could make a big difference.
“This is an issue that really hits close to home for us, as it does for a lot of people,” Nielson said. “We felt this was really a great way to highlight the issues that are affecting our team with Jordan’s situation. We have a personal attachment to this cause, so this was definitely something we wanted to be a part of. I think the more positive energy that can be directed Jordan’s way, the better.”
Nielson called Bauman one of the team’s most likable players and a top student. Bauman, a biology major, has a 3.75 grade-point average. His older brother, Matt, is a UMD strength and conditioning coach.
While the Bulldogs haven’t officially dedicated this game or season to him, they made shirts featuring Jordan Bauman’s No. 50 and the slogan “Battle Together” that every Bulldog wears on road trips. Senior quarterback Chase Vogler, a roommate of Bauman’s, has No. 50 written on his game towel.
“When something like this happens, you always have it on your mind,” Vogler said. “It was one of those things you thought would never happen again, so we all feel for what he’s going through and are praying for him. Football is just a game. This is real life, but so far he’s done a great job handling all of it. He’s a remarkable teammate and friend.”
Bauman recently had a benefit near Stratford, population 1,523, and 900 people showed up. He said fundraisers are not only good for him, but also for cancer awareness and research in general.
Bauman called his latest brush with Hodgkin’s a learning experience that has brought the Bulldogs closer together.
“I’ve been providing the rest of the guys with information and letting them come along on the ride,” Bauman said. “My teammates have been great. They’ve done a good job helping me keep my mind off of it, and they’re always there for me. Being from central Wisconsin, I’m away from my immediate family, so these guys have been like a second family to me.”