Arthur Ray Jr. accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan State in 2007 and signed a letter of intent with the Spartan during his senior year in high school. The day before the MSU spring game that year, shortly after he arrived at Michigan State, Ray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
This kid has endured 14 hour surgeries, chemo, and had his tibia removed for 8 weeks and reinserted. And never once was his FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIP in danger. Never once did ANYONE at Michigan State consider pushing this poor kid out of the football program and onto a medical scholarship so they can free up his spot and give it to someone better who can help them win more games, or heck just play in a game. Instead they all sucked it up and kept Arthur Ray a part of the team.
"This doctor, he didn't have too good of bedside manner," he said. "He was just like, 'You've got to start immediate chemotherapy. Throw football out the window. The most you'll do is run around with your grandkids.' I'm 17. I'm not trying to hear that at all. I'm not thinking about grandkids.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A large man appears at the entrance to the Skandalaris Football Center, braces himself with his crutches, swings open the door and hobbles inside.
The interview will be held on the second floor, and while the stairs are navigable, the football-shaped elevator is the safer option. When Arthur Ray Jr. reaches his destination, the lobby outside Michigan State's football offices, he lowers himself onto a couch and places his crutches to the side.
The crutches have accompanied Ray since July 2007, when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his right leg. Last week, doctors gave him the go-ahead to use only one crutch, but he hasn't fully supported himself for nearly 21 months.
He has enough hardware in his leg to fill a shelf at Ace or Home Depot. He has undergone four surgeries in addition to several other chemotherapy procedures. Amputation is still a word doctors use around Ray, who had a type of bone cancer that often results in patients losing a limb.
Bottom line: Ray doesn't look like a man who could play offensive line for Michigan State.
If Ray's leg continues to heal and can supply blood to the infected area to support his 6-foot-3, 307-pound frame, he can start increasing his activity. He returns to Chicago every six months for a series of tests -- MRI, X-ray, CT, bone scan -- and so far everything has been clean.
"Walking is the big step," Ray said. "Because before I can run, I've got to walk. Before I can sprint, I've got to run."
But skipping steps or rushing his rehab could have disastrous consequences. Infection remains a major risk, and Dietzel constantly stresses the importance of taking things slow.
"If you don't stay off of this and allow it to heal, the plates and the screws and the rod that's in your leg cannot support your weight by themselves," Dietzel tells Ray. "Bottom line is we are going to amputate your leg.
"My discussions with him are essentially, 'I want you to leave here in four or five years with a degree, being able to walk down the aisle and get your diploma and not going down with crutches or a wheelchair.' If he does play football, that's just gravy."
But football remains in the forefront of Ray's mind. He attended practices throughout the spring, wearing his No. 73 jersey on the sideline.
Regardless of what side of the fence you are on with regards to the debate over medical hardships, we strongly encourage you to read the entire story, it is truly unbelievable.
And the next time you read a Wall Street Journal article about Nick Saban's former players who felt they were pushed into medical hardship scholarships and asked to leave the team in order to free up scholarship space under the NCAA 85 limit, think about Arthur Ray Jr. and his missing tibia, chemo, and bone cancer, and how Michigan State didn't kick him to the curb and off the football team just so they could get a better player and have a better chance at winning games.
Also think about Arthur Ray Jr. the next time you hear Alabama placing a guy on a medical hardship scholarship when his knee won't function effectively.
“He hasn’t been out there at practice, so he is getting a medical,” Saban said. “He can not function effectively on his knee. Those things happen on occasion. He tried to go through the summer conditioning program and struggled. It’s always a mutual decision when we make that decision with a player, as to what he wants to do in the future.”
Bottom line, if you aren't at practice, Nick Saban has no need for you.
Medical Hardship Scholarships Under Nick Saban
The real issue here is that the medical hardship is a safety net of last resort and Nick Saban has made a mockery of the process by using it as a tool to trim his roster, but as those who would defend him would say, it's legal. Our advice to the guys currently on the roster - stay healthy - most likely 8-10 of you will have to go by next August.