CEDAR HILL — Cedar Hill High School kicker Ryan Sparkman is one of those kids who has figured out that high school football's just a game — an important game maybe, but just a game.
He had to find out the hard way, but it's all good now.
When Ryan lines up for an important kick there's pressure, but not as much as there was last year.
"Last year it was kind of... I don't want to let my team down... and it's the same thing this year but it's also the... this is nothing. It's, I'm kicking a football; it's not life-changing," he said.
What is life-changing is what happened to Ryan early this year, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.
Following four months of chemotherapy, Ryan learned that he was cancer-free — just as the football season began.
In Cedar Hill's second game, Ryan kicked the game-winning extra point in overtime to beat Denton Guyer.
Besides that moment, the game was significant for another reason.
"The fans wore green — lime green, because that's the color of Hodgkins lymphonma, is lime green," Ryan said. "All the fans were wearing lime green. The Red Army wasn't the Red Army, and the Red Army's always been the Red Army for cedar Hill! It was the 'Lime Green Army' for a game," Ryan said.
Ryan Sparkman beat cancer, but he's not done fighting it. He recently led dozens of Permenter Middle School students in a fund-raising walk.
"It was to raise money and awareness for all cancer, not just for Hodgkins lymphoma, because, like I said earlier, it's more about the awareness for the younger people because you feel you're invincible until something like this happens to you," he said.
Ryan began his chemo in February, and it lasted for four months — all through spring football — but he never missed a practice.
"Whenever he was in his heavy part of his chemo, we were in spring football, and I was expecting the guy to say, 'Hey coach, I'll be there when I can be there,' stuff like that," said head coach Joey McGuire. "He was there every day... even after a chemo treatment, he was there that afternoon kicking for us."
"No matter what, we're still a family as a football team," Ryan explained. "I feel like to be a part of the family, I need to be there to help support my team and practice — not only for me to get better, but for the people on my field goal team, on my punt team to get better also."
The hard part is over, and Ryan can continue to help his team win.