(AP) — Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray, Jr. practiced with the Spartans on Thursday, four years after being diagnosed with leg cancer. The school said Ray was granted a waiver by the NCAA that enabled him to participate. He had been medically disqualified so as not to count against the team’s scholarship limit. Ray said he found out he was cleared to practice from coach Mark Dantonio.
“I was in class, and I just cried tears of joy,” he said. “It felt so good because it just represents so much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that’s still dealing with bad things, like chemo. I still remember some of my guys that are still in the hospital.” Ray signed with the Spartans in 2007 but was diagnosed soon after and underwent successful chemotherapy and surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on top of his leg bone near the calf of his left leg. A subsequent infection forced him to leave school before re-enrolling in 2008.
Ray said he did a few drills with a little bit of hitting Thursday. He’ll count toward the team’s scholarship total this fall. “It’s a starting point to get back on the field,” Dantonio said. “It also, I think, gives hope to everybody who has been in any kind of tough situation in their life, that if you can keep pushing and push through adversity you’ve got a chance. … This guy has had four, five, six operations and surgeries. He was on crutches for two years. There was a lot of doubt whether or not he was going to walk again, let alone play football.”
Dantonio can relate to wanting to get back on the field after dealing with medical issues. In the midst of leading Michigan State to one of their best seasons in recent history (11-2 in 2010), he suffered a heart attack and had a stent put in a blocked artery near his heart. He later developed a blood clot in his leg. Despite these health concerns Dantonio only missed two games – both of which were wins for his team.