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Recruit is already a winner where it counts

[ 3 ] January 30, 2012 |

He moved on after his family home burned to the ground. He overcame cancer.

Big Ten Conference defenses?

“He’s survived everything else that has come his way,” recruiting authority Tom Lemming said, “so I don’t see any reason he won’t be successful.”

Football recruiting database: Which quarterbacks has Iowa recruited over the last 10 years? How many players has Iowa signed from Texas? Search by position, year, state and more.

Among the national letter of intent signatures the University of Iowa football team expects to receive Wednesday morning is one from running back Greg Garmon — a teenager who’s faced a lifetime’s worth of experiences off the field.

The star at McDowell High School in Erie, Pa., moved in with another family while his mother, brother and stepfather lived in a hotel while pondering whether to rebuild or buy a new house. They decided to purchase a new house, where the family is together again.

“It was crowded in the hotel, so I moved in with a friend’s family,” Garmon recalled. “It happened just before sixth grade. I lived with another family, so it wasn’t like I was homeless.”

He did that for a year, then moved back in with his family. “We were back together again,” Garmon said. “It was good.”

Bad news struck again, and this one trumped his previous setback by a long ways.

“About a year later, I found out I had cancer,” said Garmon, who was diagnosed when he was 13. “I was a young, strong guy. An athlete. Cancer happens to other people, not me — at least that’s what I thought.”

His left hip ached, “but we all just thought it was pain associated with growing up,” he said.

“I was active in sports. I thought it was just one of those types of pains athletes go through,” Garmon said.


He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which strikes about 11 young males for each million with the illness, according to the American Cancer Society.

“I’d heard about chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but I didn’t ever think I’d be going through it,” Garmon said.


His once-energetic body was zapped. He lost his hair as he underwent four months of treatment as an early teen.

“The doctor told me I would not be able to play sports,” he said, “but after a while, they said everything would be good.”

Garmon’s cancer would not have been diagnosed so soon had he not had one of those kid-like candy cravings. His stepfather took him to a general practice doctor in Erie because “G,” as they call him, had a stomach- and toothache.

“His mom told him not to eat all that candy, but you you know kids — he ate candy,” said Tony Hollingsworth, Garmon’s stepfather. “I said I’d take him to the doctor, and when we got there, I asked the doctor if he would also take a look at G’s hip, because he’d been complaining about it hurting.

“The doctor took some X-rays, and then came out with some crutches. He said there was a problem, so we took G to the hospital.”

There, doctors examined a piece of bone that they scraped.

“We got a call on a Saturday, telling us it was cancer,” Hollingsworth recalled. “We all cried. G — he was clueless, and rightly so.

“This is a kid who never said a cuss word in his life. He never got a bad grade, and now he’s got cancer.”

Garmon endured treatment, and eventually his hair grew back. He regained his strength.

“Going on four years cancer free,” Garmon said. “They haven’t said that I’m cured for good, yet, but I’m expecting to get that news when I go in for one more checkup in April.”

Garmon, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, recovered so well that he rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 touchdowns in three high school seasons.

In fact, Garmon was the first player Lemming picked to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl last month.

“I love the kid,” said Lemming, who selects the players for that game. “What a background he has — what he’s had to overcome.”

There’s always a need for college running backs, but especially now at Iowa, following the transfers of Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall.

“I feel I’ve got a good shot to play right away,” Garmon said. “That’s my hope.”

Don’t bet against him, Lemming said.

“Talk about a survivor,” he said. “The kid’s always got a smile on his face. Once he gets 10 more pounds on him, he’s got the potential to be an elite back in the Big Ten.

“Iowa has itself a future star — who has a great story to tell.”

A great inspirational story to tell, says his stepfather.

“When he gets to Iowa and someone wants him to come and talk about having cancer at a young age, G will do it,” Hollingsworth said. “He’s very open about it. If his story can help others, then he’s all for it.

“He’s going to be a super star on the field, just watch. Off the field, he’s already one.”


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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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