CMU keeps recruit with leukemia on scholarship

Derrick Nash’s dream has been delayed — not by a torn ACL or a broken leg.

He won’t play football at Central Michigan this fall because he learned last month that he has leukemia.

Now he’s battling for more than his career.

“I went to the emergency room, and that’s when everything broke loose,” Nash told mlive.com. “They did some blood work. My white blood cell count was three times as high as it should be, and my platelet count was three times as low as what it should be.

“It was leukemia.”

With 1,967 yards and 27 touchdowns, the Carrollton (Mich.) High senior was the state’s top rusher. He overcame playing for a small school near Saginaw, with an enrollment of only 509, to earn a full scholarship.

“It was my dream come true,” Nash told mlive.com. “Playing Division I football … I never thought I would get the chance, but I was getting the chance.

“Signing that letter of intent was the greatest moment in my life. It was something I thought would never happen.”

So Nash has overcome the odds before. But can he overcome leukemia and play again?

He need look no further than Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman, who missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons before joining the Tigers in 2012. Coleman underwent two years of treatments, including chemotherapy, at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Coleman regularly gets contacted by people battling leukemia.

“I always tell them to rely on God,” Coleman told AL.com, “and rely on their family and friends. That’s what got me through.”

Coleman, a five-star recruit from Olive Branch, Miss., was red-shirted last season and recently granted a sixth year under an NCAA medical redshirt ruling. He’s listed on the Tigers’ two-deep roster as the backup.

“I always knew I’d get better,” Coleman told AL.com. “I always knew I’d play again … Everything happens for a reason. I always knew God had a plan in it.”

Auburn’s coaching staff remained in Coleman’s corner through it all, and Chippewas coach Dan Enos also is encouraging Nash and keeping him on scholarship.

“One of the first things we told him was that he was going to play football again and that he was going to play for CMU,” Enos told mlive.com. “Keeping him on scholarship was a no-brainer. It’s the right thing to do.

“That’s the philosophy from the president through the athletic director to the coaches. You do the right thing.”

Nash began chemotherapy treatments May 6 and plans to apply for a medical redshirt season. He hopes to resume workouts in time to compete for playing time in 2014.

“The doctors said I’ll be able to recover,” Nash told mlive.com. “I can’t wait to get back and get to work.

“A couple days ago, I couldn’t stand up without getting tired. Now I’m ready to go. I’m going to work to become stronger than I was before, faster than I was before.”

Enos wants Nash to visit the campus in Mount Pleasant whenever he’s ready.

“There is a reason you go through tough things,” Enos told mlive.com. “I am confident Derrick is going to come back to CMU and to our team tougher and stronger than before.

“I can’t wait until he can run onto our field before a game wearing a CMU uniform. That’ll be a great moment for a lot of people.”