IOWA CITY, Ia. – When Clint Boffeli needed some family photos for a school project this fall, his mom went to work.
“I’m in Xerox boxes, not photo albums,” Jodi Boffeli said.
Clint was doing a project on his younger brother, Carson, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. In one box, Jodi discovered a picture showing 7-year-old Carson in his bed at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, flanked by two Hawkeye football players.
“It was kind of a fluke that I found it,” Jodi said.
One of the players was Nathan Chandler. The other was Brian Ferentz. Ten years later, Carson is cancer free and a junior at West Des Moines Valley High School. Brian Ferentz is in his second season as Iowa’s offensive line coach. He’s the position coach for Carson’s oldest brother, Conor, the Hawkeyes’ starting left guard.
“It’s a small world,” Jodi said.
Conor will play his final home game at Kinnick Stadium Saturday when Iowa hosts Michigan. The Boffeli family will be on the field for pre-game ceremonies. And Carson can’t wait.
“I think it’s going to be really fun,” Carson said. “I think we’ll win. By at least seven points.”
Carson was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, in August of 2003. He had surgery to remove the tumor and is now cancer free. But his illness meant he couldn’t participate in sports like Conor and Clint, a redshirt freshman wide receiver at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.
At 6 feet 5 inches and 295 pounds, Conor towers over Carson. But older brother will tell you he looks up to younger brother. After all, Carson beat a tougher foe than either of his brothers have faced on a football field.
“I think Clint and I both realize that,” Conor said. “We realize he’s gone through something that we can never, ever imagine how tough it was. And he came out victorious. That’s something that motivates us every day.”
The Boffelis attend every Iowa football game, home and away.
“To see all the stadiums is pretty cool,” said Carson, who wants to be an architect.
Home games at Kinnick Stadium make for early-morning drives. But really, it’s nothing. After Carson’s surgery, he spent a month of recovery at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. In the six weeks that followed, the Boffelis got in their Suburban and drove to Iowa City and back every day so Carson could receive radiation treatments. Then came a year of chemotherapy at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. Plus a trip to Iowa City every three months for MRIs and exams.
Today, Carson likes his X-Box and movies – comedies are his favorite – and following the Hawkeyes. He’s got his own No. 59 jersey, like his brother will wear at Kinnick Stadium for the last time Saturday.
Deep down, Carson played a role in Conor reaching the finish line of his five-year Iowa career. A tight end at Valley, Conor weighed 245 pounds when he reported to Iowa as a freshman. There were some doubts, at first, if Conor had the dedication and commitment required to make it to the field.
It wasn’t until the 10th game of his fourth season in the program that Conor started for the first time. But any doubt disappeared when he thought of Carson.
“To see such a little kid go through a tough situation like that really motivates you,” Conor said. “Clint and I have had opportunities to play sports in college. Knowing that kind of opportunity was taken away from Carson at a young age is a reminder to both of us to keep working as hard as we can. We play for him.”
When Carson was sick, he had other hospital visitors. Outland Trophy winner Robert Gallery stopped by. Coach Kirk Ferentz sent along a signed football. Jared Clauss, another former Valley player, dropped off a signed senior poster. Kirk Ferentz stresses to his players the importance of being active in the community. Hawkeye players often stop at hospitals in town to visit patients.
Ferentz said the thank yous from families is appreciated, but it’s not the true reward.
“I think it keeps things in perspective for our guys, hopefully,” Ferentz said.
Conor has made several hospital visits to spend time with patients.
“It brings back some of those memories,” Conor said. “At the same time, I remember how uplifting it was for Carson, how much it meant to him. When football players go over there, they don’t realize how uplifting it can be to those kids. But it makes their day, even their week.”
Like he does every week, Carson won’t be following the ball every time Iowa runs a play Saturday. He’ll be watching No. 59. Carson enjoys watching football – college more than professional – even though fate kept him from playing.
“OK, he can’t do what his brothers did,” Jodi said. “But he can enjoy what his brothers are doing.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football