EFFINGHAM (WCIA) — There’s a saying that’s taken over within the Effingham football program: “Toughest Team Wins.” Jacob Briggerman had to live the toughness mantra day in and day out his senior year. After surgery to fix a broken ankle early in 2020, Briggerman noticed a pain in the same leg during football workouts in November.
“I didn’t really think anything of it, it didn’t bother me that much,” says Briggerman.
After being convinced to get it checked out, doctor’s took x-ray’s of Jacob’s left leg and found he had Ewing’s Sarcoma. It’s a rare form of bone cancer that only effects about 225 kids in the United States each year.
“He went and got looked at and then he had told me. ‘You’re not sure where you’re going to go from there,” says Briggerman’s teammate Nate Thompson.
“He didn’t even bat an eye and said, ‘Doctors are 99 percent sure it’s cancer.’ I was floored,” said Hefner.
“I was working out three times a week, and doing a bunch of stuff,” says Briggerman. “Riding four-wheelers, playing basketball, and playing football and everything else. I had to go from doing all that… to nothing.”
Doctors were optimistic since they caught the cancer early. Briggerman had to undergo 14 chemotherapy sessions at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Through it all, he never let the hardship keep a smile off his face.
“I actually did pretty good,” says Briggerman. “There’s kids that throw up a lot more than I did. Last time, I threw up but it was just because I ate bad food.”
“I never, ever once heard him say he was having a bad day.” says Hefner. “Every time I would talk with him and ask, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ ‘I’m doing good, I’m doing good.’ Even though he probably wasn’t.”
Doctors removed the cancerous bone and replaced it with a piece of his right fibula. After months of treatment and more than a dozen trips to St. Louis, Briggerman finished chemo July 25th.
“Apparently I don’t have [cancer] anymore,” says Briggerman. “I have some tests coming up to clear that, looking pretty good.”
Briggerman missed his senior football season undergoing treatment. He was able to stand on the sideline for some games, but was always on the field. Every Effingham player had his number on the back of their helmet. And after the Hearts won the conference championship, Briggerman got the game ball.
“There was no other person who deserved it more than Jacob right there. It was a no-brainer,” said Thompson.
“It was a special moment, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says Briggerman. “It’s special to know they’re thinking about me, that means a lot to me.”
Briggerman graduated on time this spring and is ready to move on and go into the workforce. but he’ll always embody what he learned with the Hearts.
“I mean toughest team wins, toughest person wins,” says Briggerman. “When you have that pounding through your head for three years or four years, you’re going to keep rolling with it because it works.”