"Son Of A Champion" - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/8/06-Gilmer

"Son Of A Champion"

At age 17, most East Texas boys are enjoying Friday night's out on the football field and spending their days in school, hanging with friends.

Most 17-year-olds are not battling a disease in a fight for their life. But that is reality for Josh Nelson.

Josh was diagnosed with Leukemia nine months ago.

"I've been through some pretty rough stuff," Josh said.

As linebacker for the Gilmer Buckeyes, Josh always rolled with some pretty tough punches. But when life dealt Josh two of his toughest punches, he never complained.

"I wasn't really devastated by it. I don't know, I guess it took a while to set in," Josh said of his diagnosis. "I just thought of my mom most of the time."

Josh was diagnosed with Leukemia in January. It was a fight he shared with his mother. Josh's diagnoses came as his mother was being treated for the same disease. Four months after his diagnosis, she passed away.

"You wonder when it's ever going to be over with," said Josh's sister, Natasha Brown. "When that happened to my mom, you kind of get knocked down and you say that's okay, we're going to be alright, we're going to do this. When we heard the news on him you are knocked back down just when you get to the point you think you can handle things that happened just a few months earlier."

The treatments have taken their toll on the young athlete.

"One of the biggest setbacks that I had was when I went to the Intensive Care Unit for a couple of months and I lost a lot of blood," Josh said.

Josh was a member of the Gilmer state champion team of 2004. He said the hardest part of being sick, is not being able to play.

"It's real tough. I've been playing since the fourth grade, like little league and mini-bucks. It's hard to see them out there playing and not getting to go out there."

Josh spent several months in intensive care. The champion said he knows now he is a champion for his faith and for any teenager fighting illness.

"Knowing that I came through that, I guess I had to be pretty strong to make it through that," he said.

It is not just Josh's physical strength but his spiritual and emotional strength that has inspired an entire community and even professional athletes like Cowboys safety Roy Williams. Roy visited Josh in the hospital, giving him his Pro Bowl cleats and a game ball signed with the words "You are my hero."

"He was a real nice, great person," Josh said.  "He was real humble."

Perhaps Josh's biggest inspiration has been to his team. The Buckeyes have adopted Josh's last name Nelson as their motto. The meaning: son of a champion.

"I see them out on the field playing and when they are playing a game, they are playing their hardest out there," Josh said,  "and it's cool to know that I am there and they are playing for me."

Hundreds of Buckeye fans are cheering just as hard for Josh as they did when he was out on the field. Joshua bracelets and "Nel+son" jerseys are being sold in Gilmer. All the money raised goes to Josh's treatments.

"I think it has more to say about Joshua and how he has touched the community," said Dean Burns, a family friend leading the fundraising efforts.  "He's had a huge impact on the rest of the team and the rest of his classmates."

All the support comes as a big surprise to a young man who says he never received any extra attention.

"It's pretty crazy I guess," Josh said. "I figured people would by them but I see people wearing them and stuff and I was just like wow, they are wearing my name around."

Josh is not out of the woods with his fight. But just as he has inspired his team, they have inspired him to win at all cost. He said there is one perfect way the Buckeyes could end a season dedicated to him.

"State champs, all the way."

If you would like to help Josh you can make a donation in his name at Gilmer National Bank or you can purchase a "Nel+son" Buckeye jersey at any Gilmer game.

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