1707383320 Despite incurable cancer at the Super Bowl an inspiring lesson

Despite incurable cancer at the Super Bowl: an inspiring lesson in courage from a 49ers coach

LAS VEGAS | Five years after being hit in the face with a terminal cancer diagnosis, 49ers linebackers coach Johnny Holland is still standing. He attended perhaps his last Super Bowl in Las Vegas and has become a true source of inspiration for his team.

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The Journal visited him on Monday amid the hustle and bustle of media evening. There was a cacophony at Allegiant Stadium, with the deafening noise of more than 23,000 spectators, 6,000 journalists and the echo of interviews broadcast on a giant screen inside the stadium.

Several players fear this mandatory passage for them, but Holland seemed to be floating on a cloud despite the fate that befell him. Straight as an oak tree and with a sparkling look in his eyes, he was just enjoying the moment when we approached him.

“I feel very good. Life is very good for me. Look, I have a unique opportunity to be here,” he confided, pointing to the floor full of activity and cameras.

“I still have the chance to coach excellent players. I feel healthy. If you are diagnosed with cancer and five years later you are still coaching in this league, you can only be grateful,” he added.

The players who play under Johnny Holland appreciate his positive outlook on life, despite the enormous pitfalls that illness poses for him.

Johnny Holland is thoroughly enjoying his presence at the center of the Super Bowl media madness. We met him at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Photo Stephane Cadorette

Positive in adversity

During the 2019 season, Johnny Holland decided to see a doctor for recurring back and shoulder pain. Until then, nothing unusual for the man who played seven seasons as a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1987 to 1993.

Further testing revealed that he was not suffering from complications related to his on-field career, but rather multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow.

Even though, as he himself says, his “expiration date” is not known, he knows that he is doomed. Life expectancy varies from patient to patient, but on average it is five years. Here he is at the Super Bowl, right against that horizon, and looking at him, you'd swear he's in perfect health.

“Dealing with young players every day gives me a lot of energy. Victories also help. I've spent my life relying on confidence and a positive attitude, so it's hard for me to say that even when I'm having a bad day. “It’s so nice to be here,” he enthused.

One last chance?

When discussing his story with Le Journal, Holland didn't shy away. Even though he knows his life could change overnight and that this may be his last chance to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

“I think every day that this might be my last chance. Besides, everyone should think like that. When you experience something so big, you never know if it will ever happen again. We never know what tomorrow will bring,” he said wisely.

It's always worse somewhere else

The players who play under Johnny Holland appreciate his positive outlook on life, despite the enormous pitfalls that illness poses for him.

Johnny Holland during a game against the Los Angeles Rams earlier this season. PHOTO PROVIDED BY SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

In life, it's easy to imagine that the grass is greener elsewhere. For Johnny Holland, it's the opposite philosophy, that no matter what evil consumes you, there's always someone worse than you. He realizes this when he goes for his chemotherapy treatments once a month.

“When I go for my treatments, I always see people who are really sick. I get treatment and then go back to work. What could I complain about?

“My father always taught me to appreciate the present moment because you never know what awaits you in life. You have to let go of the things you can't control. “What I can control in the face of illness is my attitude,” he philosophized.

Star players will take center stage in Sunday's showdown between the 49ers and Chiefs, but the most inspiring Super Bowl stories don't always happen on the field.

A career restarted in the Canadian League

LAS VEGAS | Before Johnny Holland experienced the success of recent years with the 49ers, he, like almost all coaches, experienced the affront of being fired at some point. He turned to the Canadian League to restart his career.

Immediately following his years as a player in Green Bay, the Packers retained him as a defensive quality control assistant in 1995. Without realizing it, he began a coaching career that he still enjoys 28 years later.

After rising through the ranks with the Packers, Seahawks, Lions and Texans, Holland hoped he had found stability with the Raiders, but in 2012 they showed him the door.

At that moment, a three-year stint in the Canadian League awaited him.

“My friend Corey Chamblin was the head coach at Saskatchewan and asked me to join him. I didn't want to remain idle. For me it was a great experience and I learned a lot about Canadian football. I worked in two great organizations,” said the man who went on to spend two years with the British Columbia Lions.

Good moments

Holland quickly adapted to the Canadian style and says the fast-paced game and lots of attacking moves helped him become a better coach. Winning the 2013 Gray Cup with the Roughriders was also a turning point.

“This experience allowed me to stay on the coaching staff. The level of play was very good. I have looked after excellent players. I told several of them that they could have played in the NFL. “Sometimes everything is a simple matter of opportunity,” he recalls.

Admiring players

In 2017, Holland moved to the 49ers when Kyle Shanahan became head coach. Since then, the stability has continued and outstanding linebackers have flourished under his wing.

“We know what he’s going through and we want to win for him. You might think he wasn't sick until he went for chemotherapy. It makes it clear to us every time that he has to fight because otherwise he would never complain. “When you have a bad day, you just have to watch it go to remember that football is a gift that life gives us,” said Dr. Greenlaw, who had two interceptions and 15 tackles in the current series.

Midfield defense general Fred Warner considers Johnny Holland his mentor after six seasons under his command.

“His presence is very significant on and off the field. I have a lot to thank him for. He always knew how to get the best out of me. Despite the battle he is fighting, he still has the same level of energy. He’s the type of man who makes us better people.”


Good evening, Mr. Davis!

The players who play under Johnny Holland appreciate his positive outlook on life, despite the enormous pitfalls that illness poses for him.

Archive photo, AFP

LAS VEGAS | Super Bowl week often provides an opportunity to have a few impromptu get-togethers. That was the case when I met Mark Davis, owner of the Las Vegas Raiders. The owner left Allegiant Stadium in a hurry but willing to stop for a moment. It's impossible not to ask him what he thinks about the Chiefs, as representatives of the American Conference, being in the Raiders' facilities all week, including the locker room. Davis immediately responded blankly to his arch-enemies. “It doesn’t bother me at all because we filled the locker room with microphones. We will listen to absolutely everything they say!” said the joker.

Andy Reid is having fun

The players who play under Johnny Holland appreciate his positive outlook on life, despite the enormous pitfalls that illness poses for him.

Archive photo, AFP

LAS VEGAS | Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has become a regular at Super Bowl media gatherings, making his fifth appearance. He still seemed taken aback by a question from a German journalist who asked him what he thought of the theory that the NFL planned to secure the Chiefs' presence in a grand secret alliance due to the presence of Taylor Swift in their entourage US President Joe Biden to be re-elected. “This is all really out of my league, as is my ability to speak German,” the mustachioed man laughed and groaned.

Mahomes is silent about his father

The players who play under Johnny Holland appreciate his positive outlook on life, despite the enormous pitfalls that illness poses for him.

Archive photo, AFP

LAS VEGAS | Those who expected quarterback Patrick Mahomes to spend a lot of time on the delicate situation of his father, who was arrested for drunken driving for the third time this weekend, are not being served. “He's fine. It's a family issue, so we're keeping it in the family. That's all I'm going to say about it,” the Chiefs pivot said of his father's former Major League Baseball pitcher, according to the law In Texas there is now a prison sentence of two to ten years.