Radford football captain fights cancer with help from football community

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) - Friday night football is the highlight of Radford senior Eric Burdette's week.

“Just the atmosphere, I mean it’s just tradition," he said. "A Radford tradition, you’re always playing football ever since you’re little. It’s just something I’ve always loved and something I’ve always continued to do.”

But this season for the team captain has not been what he expected it.

“Yeah," he sighed.

Burdette had a round of chemo - a day before tonight's game.

"It's a crazy story," he said laughing, shaking his head.

In the first game of the season, Burdette made a great sack and the other player landed on Burdette's chest.

But what Burdette thought was a cracked rib - turned out to be Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

“It puts in all in perspective. I don’t know how to explain it," the 17-year-old said. "You look at life so much differently, I guess is one way to put it, but yeah.”

So, he fights.
But he's here at the game and so is his family.

“Oh he’s so strong, it’s amazing," said dad Randy with mom Debbie. "He surprises me every day how strong he is. He’s a lot stronger than we are.”

Randy Burdette said sometimes, Eric will leave the hospital from his chemo sessions and go straight to the football field to watch practice. Then he'll follow his strict workout regiment before ending the night catching up on homework.

Eric Burdette is at every game, every practice, every meeting he has the strength for.

“I’m team captain, team leader, just being a leader and trying to help them through this rough season. It’s definitely been a unique one," he said.

In return, his teammates and classmates are showing their true colors - purple- to represent Brudette's cancer.

It adorns almost everything - socks, hair ribbons, a pair of crutches. Even the purple ribbon has been painted onto the field along with Burdette's number.

“They all got something to play for, they know that football is only temporary and I’m a living example of that," Burdette said. "Just living it to the fullest.”

But the support extends past Radford high.
Football games where Radford is not even present have been hosting 50/50 raffles for the Burdettes.
Many winners opt to give Eric the whole pot.

“The support is just overwhelming, it’s just yeah, something we never ever expected," Randy and Debbie said. "It’s really nice to know everybody cares.”

“I never thought it would have been a big deal," Eric said, incredulous. "But it’s definitely helped so much, all the support.”

Friday night, the latest round of support come in large checks totaling thousands of dollars from students, local organizations and companies that all are rooting for Burdette.

Cancer, like football, is not easy.

“It’s hard to go through but trying to make it look easy,” the teen admits.

But football taught Burdette about being a fighter.
And fight he will .

“I’m motivated to get up every morning and just face the day. As soon as you get out of bed you’re just like alright here we go, another day, day by day.”

And while this season, hasn't been the Bobcat's best, Burdette says he wouldn't trade this team for anything.

“But I love em, I wouldn’t want anything different. It’s been perfect for me," he said. "It means the world to me to be here."