DENHAM SPRINGS – After recently capturing the Pineville High’s Rebel Cup, the Denham Springs boys soccer team had a special place in mind for the championship trophy.
The day before teammate Taylor Wilson, a senior, was scheduled for surgery at MD Anderson for a brain tumor, the entire team showed up at Wilson’s home, where they presented him with the championship trophy.
“It’s still like he’s part of the family,” Denham Springs senior Sam Miller said. “Taylor is a big part of the team. He comes and prays with us before the games and he really brightens the mood. He grounds us, really. He’s always been real close to us because of that so it’s the least we could do to pay him back…he’s such a strong kid and I think that inspires us to come out and persevere on the field.”
Before the start of his junior year, Wilson discovered a sizable lump on his head while battling an unrelated sickness.
Originally thought to be a flare up associated with a sinus infection, it wasn’t until five months later that it was diagnosed to be a tumor. Specialists have since determined the tumor was larger than previously believed and an attempt to remove it through his nasal passage in August proved unsuccessful because of its size.
A second opinion, following their first trip to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, defined the tumor as an osteoma, a piece of bone that typically grows on another bone, typically in the skull, that’s considered a benign tumor which made its removal of paramount importance.
Wilson underwent a five-hour surgery on Nov. 12, one that required removing a fragment of his skull were the tumor was embedded and replacing it with a plate to replace the skull piece that required removal.
Wilson, who said the tumor was the size of a softball, played on DSHS' soccer team as a freshman and sophomore before his diagnosis, and this year’s 12-member senior class in which he was supposed to be a playing member, haven’t forgotten his absence.
This year, the Yellow Jackets have likely the deepest and most talented team Denham Springs has ever fielded. But with Wilson, they have something that galvanizes the team and unites them with a single focus: play for Taylor.
Wilson may be off fighting his own battle, but the unwavering support from the people in his corner has had a profound impact on him.
“They’ve always told me that I’m a part of the brotherhood, no matter what,” said Wilson, who is expected to return to Denham Springs High for the spring semester. “Not being able to play anymore because of these reasons, it’s just a bummer. But I still have always felt like I’m a part of the team, now more than ever. It means a lot because there’s a certain level of fear that comes in when you have a surgery like this.”
“Before every game, they get together and say, ‘this one’s for Taylor, let’s play this one for Taylor,” Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne said. “They’ve maintained that throughout the whole tournament. He’s one of their friends going through something drastic and it’s something that they rallied around. That was their focus.”
While waiting for his most recent surgery, which was a post-op visit to remove 64 staples from his head, Wilson received a video – a montage of his teammates in full soccer uniforms taking turns getting their heads shaved.
It was their show of solidarity for Wilson, even conceiving the phrase: #TaylorStrong.
“They don’t care what they look like,” Wilson said. “They’re just doing it because they want me to know that they’re supporting me and they’re praying for me.”