Dez Bryant's record-breaking touchdown catch Thursday night wasn't his biggest accomplishment of the night. Just ask a family from Livermore, California, who says the football star's generosity was a much, much bigger deal.
"It has been a fabulous, fabulous trip," Tracy Dangler said the Friday morning after the Cowboys' win over the Washington Redskins.
Dangler's son Darren, 13, has leukemia. And while his treatments continue, he told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that his dream was to watch his favorite football team play at their home stadium and to meet his favorite player, Dez Bryant.
"Oh, it was awesome. Really awesome," Darren Dangler said.
Their week in Dallas started with a trip to the STAR in Frisco. The Dangler family, dad Jason, mom Tracy, Darren, and little brother Brady, got to meet Bryant, Jason Witten, and head coach Jason Garrett. They received a signed football from Dez, and then Darren received his own "88" jersey with his own name stenciled on the back. Dez autographed that for him too.
"And the hospitality was just first class," Tracy Dangler said. Hospitality included first-class transportation, a trip on owner Jerry Jones' private luxury bus. "It's just been an awesome experience. I have no words for it," Jason Dangler said.
And they had trouble putting into words what happened on the sidelines before the game at AT&T Stadium. During warmups, Dez Bryant walked over, took off his cleats, and handed Darren the brand new shoes he'd been wearing. Darren's little brother Brady noticed a few jealous faces in the crowd.
"I turned around and saw someone with their jaws open," Brady laughed.
As for Darren and Dez, their conversation was brief, with just a few last instructions.
"He told me to keep the shoes fresh," Darren laughed. "Keep 'em clean."
"He's going home with shoes. They got jerseys, hats, I mean wow," Tracy Dangler said.
"And experienced real BBQ," Jason Dangler proclaimed of his first trip to Dallas. "It was awesome!"
"They're just genuine. It was just a genuine group of people. And they do a lot of selfless acts," Tracy Dangler said.
"It's just been an awesome experience," said Darren.
An experience that a young cancer fighter will always remember. And no, as the Dangler family boarded a flight at DFW for the trip back to northern California, Dez's shoes would not be traveling home in checked luggage.
Darren, emboldened to continue his cancer battle, is carried his prized-possession home himself.
Make-A-Wish, North Texas