BUTTE — Make no mistake about it -- Isaiah Allik has every intention of suiting up and charging onto the football field as an Oredigger this fall.
And as he begins charting a path back to the gridiron, he knows he's doing so with a veritable battalion behind him.
"Just having everybody's support and knowing that I have like a whole army, a whole state behind my back is a great feeling," he said, referring to the now over 500 individual people who have donated more than $32,000 to his recovery.
A Charlo High School graduate and Montana Tech freshman defensive back, Allik was diagnosed with vascular cancer in his right leg in February, throwing his future into uncertainty.
He had spent the past seven months tolerating what he thought was an injured knee that wasn't healing correctly.
But in January, a tumor was identified. A month later, it was officially diagnosed as Pseudomyogenic Hemangioendothelioma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer.
The initial news was, of course, devastating. But Allik was relieved that the true extent of the problem had finally been identified so a solution could be designed.
"I'm glad that we got everything figured out and we're going to have a plan to get me better," Allik said.
That plan included surgery in Spokane to reduce the size of the tumor and this past week a meeting with an oncology team in Kalispell. He's now back home with his family in Charlo where he's receiving oral chemotherapy, a pill that battles cancer while reducing many of the side effects of other forms of treatment.
His objective this spring and summer is as clear as it is ambitious -- rid his body of cancer, complete his rehabilitation and rejoin Tech in August.
"My end goal is to be suited up this fall and to be playing," Allik said. "A lot of people are doubting me so that just motivates me more."
While there may be people, including some of Allik's own doctors, who are unsure whether his resolve to suit up on Saturdays this fall will actually come to fruition, there's no question that there is a legion of people pulling for him and hoping to see it happen.
Upon learning of Allik's diagnosis, Tech head football coach Kyle Samson and his staff brainstormed ways to help generate funds for his medical travel and treatment.
The idea of a fundraiser auction was briefly kicked around before remembering that, in the COVID era, pulling off such an event would be nearly impossible.
Samson decided on a GoFundMe campaign and he set up a donation page with all proceeds being sent directly to Allik's mother, Lindsey Dwelle.
He set the goal at $5,000, thinking that would be a reasonable amount to aim for.
But in a demonstration of not just Butte, but Montana's ability to rally for one of its own, that number was soon shattered.
Within a day, nearly $20,000 had been raised.
Being a member of a Tech team that's like a second family to him and coming from a tight-knit Charlo community, Allik knew he'd receive support from those groups. But he was overwhelmed by the fact that many of the donations were from people he'd never met.
"It was something that made me start thinking positively," Allik said. "It was really cool to see the good in this world."
Looking back on the outpouring of love and support that he's received over the past month, Allik had a final message to everyone who has had his back during this difficult time.
"Just one more time for anybody who checks this out, I just want to thank them for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers and supporting the cause," he said. "I just want everybody to know that I'm going to be better, I'm going to be back out there this fall."