BUTTE — Last November we shared the story of Butte High sophomore Max Demarais as he battled optic nerve glioma. After months of steady progress, a recent MRI showed Max and the rest of the Demarais family that the tumor behind his right eye had grown in size.
Two weeks ago, Max was in Salt Lake City for a biopsy that resulted in his right eye completely swelling up. But as soon as he was released he made it back home to Butte where the next day he and his family made the drive to Bozeman for the FCS playoff game between Montana State and Austin Peay. While he was there Max touched the hearts of the Bobcats players and coaches.
“Had my biopsy Wednesday, checkup on Thursday, we raced back Thursday," said Max. "Then Friday headed over to the Bobcats game and watched them kick some butt, so it was pretty awesome.”
But unlike the hundreds of MSU games he and his family had been to before, this one would be much different. After the game, senior safety Brayden Konkol spotted Max through the huge crowd and ran over to his favorite high school football player.
“He saw me out of the corner of his eye and then he came up and gave me a big hug and just said, 'We’re all here for you, we’re going to win the next game for you,' and it was pretty awesome," said Max.
Konkol isn’t the only member of the Bobcats that has been touched by Max’s story. Senior defensive end Bryce Sterk couldn’t believe Max and his family made it to the game after all they had been through in the days prior.
“That’s a really tough kid -- I mean, a huge Bobcat fan obviously -- but that’s just a great level of strength and commitment to make that drive," said Sterk. "Because that drive is long when you’re healthy. But for him to do that speaks volumes to how tough that kid is.”
Max’s story has made an impact on Sterk, too.
“My heart goes out to them. My sister, when she was younger, had cancer, as well, so it’s definitely something I’m kind of familiar with," Sterk said.
When Max awoke from a nap after his MRI, he saw Sterk had given him a shout-out on Twitter. Knowing that Sterk, MSU coach Jeff Choate and the rest of the Bobcat family were thinking about him while they prepared for the FCS quarterfinals will forever hold a special place in Max’s heart.
“It just means the world to me because those guys are focused on winning. But just being able to make a kid’s day after having a couple bad weeks is pretty awesome," said Max.
Max met up with Sterk after the Bobcats' 24-10 win over Austin Peay, where they exchanged words of encouragement and strength. Max got to meet one of his football idols, while Sterk got to meet one of the reasons why being a Bobcat is just more than strapping up the pads and stepping out on the field.