Saquon Barkley played high school football for the Whitehall Zephyrs, went on to play for the Penn State Nittany Lions in college and is now a star running back for the New York Giants.
13-year-old Jack Ohl aspires to play for the Parkland High School football team, Whitehall’s main rival, the Michigan Wolverines, a prime rival of Penn State, and then, ideally, the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite NFL team and main rooting interest.
We don’t even need to address the rivalry between New York and Dallas.
Needlessly to say, there’s very little he and Barkley share in common outside their love of football, but that didn’t prevent the two from forging a recent bond.
While attending a Whitehall High School event in support of Ohl’s sister, Barkley learned about Jack and his battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is a rare form of cancer diagnosed roughly 200,000 times per year, through an Ohl family friend, Corinna Kramer-Hinks.
“She apologized for bothering him,” LeeZa Ohl, Jack’s mother, told The Morning Call. “But she asked him for his help. She explained about the Facebook page and told Saquon his family was following Jack. She said Jack was having a really hard time. With that, he stopped signing autographs, called his mother over and asked him to work with Corinna to set up a meeting with Jack. Within about three hours, Barkley was in the hospital with Jack.”
Almost immediately, Barkley asked to meet Jack.
“Jack was diagnosed on Feb. 28 and has spent 51 days in the hospital on and off,” LeeZa said. “He has three-and-a-half years of chemo and transfusions ahead of him. He has been playing football since he was five at the South Parkland Youth Association. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to play football for a few years.”
Within hours, Barkley was standing bedside handing Jack an autographed football. But the running back wasn’t alone. His parents, girlfriend, Anna Congdon, and one-year-old daughter Jada Clare all took time to meet with the Ohl family and pose for photographs.
“They were there for about a half-hour,” LeeZa Ohl said. “It was very special. Some of his family are following Jack on Facebook.”
Barkley took it a step further, requesting permission from Jack’s family to speak with his doctors. Whatever was shared during those conversations remains private, but it was clear that Barkley cared more about Jack’s ailment and recovery than just a press op.
“The fact that he was there just for Jack was amazing. Saquon wanted to know everything about Jack’s cancer and we gave him permission to talk with Jack’s doctor about him. He really showed he cared,” LeeZa said.
Jack may remain a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, but he has Barkley and all of Giants Nation on his side.