A battle with bone cancer kept Salina Central High School junior Greg Gibson from playing football last fall, but he plans to be back in action for his senior year on Salina Central’s Mustang team.
When Salina Liberty and Salina Regional Health Center proposed a campaign to raise awareness of cancer highlighting Gibson’s diagnosis with osteosarcoma, Gibson suggested naming the campaign Minor Set Back Major Comeback.
“If you are going through problems, put your faith in God and he’ll be there for you,” Gibson said Thursday morning when the campaign was announced at Central High School. “My battle has shown me a lot of blessings and that a lot of people have my back.”
Gibson, who was diagnosed with cancer in his calf bone last year, was presented with a limited edition Salina Liberty jersey with his name on the back and the number 36, which he wears during his high school football games.
As part of the campaign, during the Liberty’s Saturday game versus the Omaha Beef, the team will replace their light blue jerseys with the limited edition navy blue jerseys that feature a yellow ribbon, symbolizing awareness for osteosarcoma, said Ricky Bertz, the team’s chief executive officer. Following the game, 23 of the jerseys will be auctioned off.
Bertz said when he heard Gibson’s story, “it really touched the Liberty organization.”
“Just everything that his mom and that family have been through and how strong they have been through it all, really says a lot,” he said. “I’m a dad myself, and my biggest fear is something happening to my child.”
The Liberty is also pledging to raise $1,000 additional dollars.
Bertz said people are being asked to pledge to donate a certain amount for each touchdown the Liberty scores.
Bertz said donations can be made at the game, by calling the Salina Liberty office at 826-7200 or on the team’s Facebook page.
“That amount (for the pledge) can be anything someone is willing to donate for every touchdown we score,” he said. “Even if someone just wants to donate ‘X’ amount of dollars, they can do that. Regardless of what the score is, I’m telling our coach to run up the scoreboard.”
Bertz said a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales for the 6:35 p.m. game at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center, from the jersey auction and the pledge will be donated to the Tammy Walker Cancer Center.
Gibson will also have the option of donating a portion of the proceeds to medical professionals and organizations that have helped him throughout his battle with cancer.
Bertz said Liberty players normally wear their names on their helmets and not on the back of their jerseys. On Saturday, the back of every player’s jersey will display Gibson’s name.
Gibson was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last year after a visit to the family physician for leg pains he experienced after football workouts.
The tumor was removed from his fibula in August, and Gibson underwent his last round of chemotherapy in February. His mother Danielle Cranston said Gibson and his family are looking forward to moving on.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Greg,” she said. “He has handled this way better than I probably could have. He’s so strong.”
Gibson missed the 2017 football season but was listed every week on the Central roster. He hopes to get back on the football field with his teammates for his senior year.
“That was the hardest part about it all — not being able to play last year,” he said. “Next year I will be a senior, so of course I want to play and be out there. I consider the team my family.”
Central’s season opener is scheduled for Aug. 31 at home against Goddard Eisenhower.
“I’ve been (medically) cleared for a while now, so I’ve just been working out and getting stronger and faster,” he said. “I’m almost back to normal, just some instability, but I just have to build it back up now and I’m ready.”