INDIANAPOLIS – One of the most inspirational young players in the NFL is Texans wide receiver John Metchie III.
Diagnosed in July with acute promyelocytic leukemia, a curable form of the disease, Metchie missed his entire rookie season after being drafted in the second round.
#Texans coach DeMeco Ryans on John Metchie who is doing well after missing rookie season with treatable form of leukemia @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/7JgU0aha0x— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 1, 2023
Metchie has made steady progress in his recovery from leukemia and has a chance to be ready for the Texans’ offseason conditioning program in April.
“I saw Metchie a lot playing at Alabama, a truly talented kid,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. “I’m just proud of the things that he’s been through, such a resilient young man who I’m happy and excited to work with. Just so proud of the process and the things he’s been through, he shows all the mental toughness and grit and all those things, I’m proud of how Metchie has continued to battle.”
In a nod of respect toward the Texans’ rookie wide receiver, wide receiver Jalen Camp delivered a convincing rendition of Metchie’s trademark touchdown celebration during a preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints last August.
When Metchie scored touchdowns at Alabama he would pose in the end zone in a manner reminiscent of the crane kick from the Karate Kid movies.
It was a planned celebration as the Texans’ wide receivers wanted to pay tribute to Metchie during his battle with leukemia. The first wide receiver to score a touchdown would carry out the celebration to honor Metchie, and the moment went to Camp.
“It’s just about everything that he’s going through right now, coming off the injury last season and finally working his way to be able to play with us and then getting diagnosed with the cancer,” Camp said during the season. “I think that we all realized that what he’s going through and what he’s dealing with is kind of bigger than everything that we’re doing. We’re out here playing football and he’s dealing with something way bigger than this, so for us to just do that little celebration was big for us to do.”
“All the the guys in the receiving room decided that the very first touchdown that we had was going to be the crane celebration for Metchie for everything that he’s going through and just pay homage.”
Of course, Metchie was watching. And Metchie, who delivered an emotional video message to the team before the first practice of camp, approved wholeheartedly of what Camp did.
“Yes, sir, it was all good feedback,” Camp said. “We talked after the game, and he was just appreciative, and we’re obviously appreciative of him and everything he’s done these past couple months and the fight that he has going on right now. He didn’t critique it. I don’t think I did it as well as he does it, but I think he was definitely appreciative of it.”
Metchie talked frequently with teammates and coaches and remaining a part of a team that’s been extremely supportive of him.
“He’s a part of us really every day,” receivers coach and passing game coordinator Ben McDaniels said during the season. “We try to support him in every way at all times. He and I are in contact on a regular basis. I’m thinking and praying for him daily. He’s a part of it from afar in some ways, but his positivity and spirit as he attacks something really difficult is really admirable.”
According to medical journals, APL is a “unique subtype of Acute Myeloid Leukemia with cells in the bone marrow that produce blood cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets) that do not develop and function normally. APL begins with one or more acquired changes (mutations) to the DNA of a single blood-forming cell. APL cells have a very specific abnormality that involves chromosomes 15 and 17, leading to the formation of an abnormal fusion gene PML/RARα. This mutated gene causes many of the features of the disease.” A common symptom of APL is bleeding due to reduced numbers of platelets and deficiencies in clotting factors. That symptom can be life-threatening and has to be managed by medical supervision to prevent complications and treat the disease.
A common treatment for APL is a highly successful drug called ATRA (all-trans retinoic acid) to target the chromosomal abnormality. Because of advances in treatment, cure rates of 90% have been reported from medical centers specializing in APL treatment.
“Recently, I was diagnosed with APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia), the most curable form of Leukemia,” Metchie said in a statement before camp. “I am currently receiving great medical care, am in good spirits, and I expect to make a recovery at a later point in time. “As a result of this diagnosis, I will likely not be playing football this season. My main focus will be on my health and recovery. Thank you in advance for your support and well-wishes. I cannot wait to come back stronger than ever. God bless.”
Metchie was expected to have a central role in the Texans’ offense this season. Although sidelined, he’s provided inspiration to his teammates with his courage and attitude.
“It was heartwarming,” Texans cornerback Tremon Smith said. “I felt for him. I just feel bad for Metchie. I wish he was out there playing with us because he would have been a big part of this season this year. I heard it’s the most curable, so I just pray for him.”
Former Texans starting safety Andre Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018. When his cancer went into remission after undergoing treatment, Hal returned that season to play in eight games and intercepted three passes.
Retired since 2019, Hal provided his perspective on the road ahead for Metchie.
“You have to stay focused on being positive, staying positive, and keeping your family around,” Hal said in a telephone interview. “I would tell him to eat real healthy, stay focused, and stay clear on his mission. Pray a lot. I would definitely talk to him; kind of went through the same thing. I know where he’s at right now. You’ve got to go for it head-first; go at it. He’s going at it right now.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com