ECU football player battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma expects to play again

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -A standout football player from South Carolina was preparing to make his debut at ECU this season but a life-threatening disease put those plans on hold.

Tripp Smith is a freshman long snapper who was recently diagnosed with cancer and is now on a long road to recovery and leaning on the support of family, friends and Pirate Nation to get through.

While playing in high school he caught the eye of many college coaches, including ECU head coach Mike Houston, who offered him a preferred walk-on to play for the Pirates back in January and Smith wasted no time committing.

Smith says, “The visit was amazing. I fell in love with the campus. The staff was amazing and really just felt like home. Out of every school I’ve ever been to, East Carolina was the best.”

Everything seemed to be panning out nicely after Smith signed his letter of intent and headed to Greenville.

Smith reported to ECU to begin summer workouts in June, but two weeks later, he and his parents would have their world turned upside down.

His father Stephen recalls learning of the news from his wife. “She texted me and she said Stephen call me, it’s bad.”

During a routine physical, Smith’s heart rate and blood pressure levels were abnormal and he also appeared to have severe stomach pains.

ECU team physicians sent him to a gastroenterologist, and after a bone marrow biopsy, Smith was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Smith says, “I was just shocked honestly. I was sitting in the doctor’s office when he told me that and I just couldn’t believe it. I was speechless.”

Smith would face the hardest challenge of his young life as he began chemotherapy treatment back home.

As he continues his fight, he also remains determined. “You’re gonna have to fight so why not fight hard and why not have a good attitude about it? Just keeping the morale up, long snapping, keeping a good attitude about. Not just being sad like oh I’m sick, can’t do anything.”

And through the battle, Smith says he knows he has a group of loyal supporters in Pirate Nation.

Smith says, “I get messages from people I don’t even know every day and their Twitter will be like ECU alum, ECU Pirate fan and hundreds of them just text me. They’re like we are wishing you the best, we’re praying for you, you got this, we are always here for you. Pirate Nation is right behind you and I truly believe that.”

Smith says he knows the road ahead is going to be tough but he won’t stop until he’s suiting up again.

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