OVIEDO, Fla. -- It’s senior night at Oviedo High School. The Lions are getting set to take on Lake Brantley. Black and Orange are the school colors, but there’s yellow as far as the eye can see.
- Oviedo High tight end Britton Daniel battling bone cancer
- Schools across the area have rallied behind him in support
- Jaguars QB, Oviedo alum Blake Bortles wears yellow wristband
On the field, senior tight end Britton Daniel is wearing his No. 11 jersey. He’s been playing football since he was 6.
Tonight, he’s traded in his helmet for a cowboy hat and a different kind of face mask.
It’s a special night for every senior, but it’s yellow because of him.
“Just the support is the coolest thing,” Britton says. “I never thought anything like that could happen.”
For Britton, the yellow symbolizes support, but it also symbolizes a diagnosis.
Cut to a hospital room in Gainesville. The name Daniel is written outside the door.
Inside the room, the first thing you see is a large IV machine and a label that says, “chemotherapy change Friday.” Behind that, the word “Believe” is written on the wall.
Britton is lying in the bed. No cowboy hat today to hide his shaved head. He has spent most of the season here at Shands Children’s Hospital.
“Britton has a tumor. It's called Ewing sarcoma,” his doctor, Joanne Lagmay tells me. She specializes in pediatric oncology.
“It’s one of the most common bone cancers that we see in children. Having said that, it’s actually relatively quite rare. We only see cancers in children in 1 percent of the population.”
Lagmay comes in to check on Britton. She asks how he’s feeling. He describes the anxiety he gets waiting all day for the chemo treatment. The nausea kicks in with the anticipation.
He’s up here every other week. Sometimes it's for five days at a time, but luckily, this is one of the shorter sessions: only three days away from home.
“After a couple days of chemo, then I get pretty nauseous, and that’s pretty rough,” he says.
His dad, Jim, is in the room. He and Britton’s mom, Trent, alternate making the trip. Britton has visitors, and his cousin who attends the University of Florida stops by as well. The two of them have been able to stream some of Oviedo’s games this season.
Britton first sensed something was wrong during summer workouts. He was having pain in his lower back and hip. He saw doctor after doctor but couldn’t get a clear diagnosis.
“The first day of practice, I couldn’t even make it without pain,” Britton remembers. “Every cut, I just couldn’t even put pressure on it. It was just killing me. It was like an unbearable pain I’d never experienced before.”
Britton underwent an MRI, which revealed a tumor on the ball socket where his hip meets his pelvis. That’s where the cancer started, and it spread from there. The diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma came a week before the first game of the season.
Britton would not be playing his senior year, but that didn’t mean he lost his spot on the team.
August 24 vs. Timber Creek. Oviedo held a yellow out. Yellow is the official support color of sarcoma. The football team ran its first offensive play with just 10 guys, in Britton’s honor.
“It ended up being a 40-yard gain right off the bat,” Oviedo head coach Matt Dixon remembers. “It was kind of special. We look back at the game; that was almost the highlight of the game for us as a team.”
The special didn’t stop. September 7, Hagerty High School hosted a yellow out and fundraiser for the game against Oviedo. The Hagerty team came up with a special gift.
“We just wanted to show our full support for Britton and his family, so the whole team, we got together and signed a ball for him,” Hagerty senior running back Jordan Gilbert said.
Gilbert and many of the Hagerty players played with and against Britton back in the Pop Warner days. Gilbert has known Britton since he was 9. Britton wasn’t able to attend this game, so Gilbert and the Hagerty captains gave the ball to Britton’s dad, Jim, and his sister, Madison. After the national anthem, Jim and Madison released a bunch of yellow balloons into the sky. From there, Britton’s story continued to spread.
“It’s beyond description,” Jim says. “It’s overwhelming to have the whole Seminole County come together.”
Britton’s mom, Trent, is the principal at Lake Brantley High School. Her Patriots have adopted yellow this season, too.
“For me personally, the support, it’s not just my colleagues, it’s the students at Lake Brantley,” Trent says. “It’s the teachers, it’s the community. It reminds me why I became an educator.”
The support has become its own hashtag: #B11Strong. It’s even made its way to the NFL. Oviedo alum and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles heard about Britton’s story. You can see him wearing the B11Strong yellow wristband during news conferences.
“It means a lot,” Britton says. “It seems like I’m in a whole different world now.”
Through all the chemo, all the support, Britton’s had just one wish.
“Right when I started chemo, they said, 'All right, we don’t want you to change your life too much. Do you have anything you want to do? Like go on a trip or something? ' ” Britton says. “I said, 'I want to go walk at my senior night, because I’ve been playing since I was 6.' ”
October 19 vs. his mom’s school, Lake Brantley, Britton made that walk.
“It’s kind of like my last hurrah, if you want to say," Britton says. "Saying goodbye to football, you know.”
He was the last senior to hear his name called. It was closure for a sport he’s loved his whole life. But he wasn’t done with football yet. After the ceremony, Britton gave a speech to the team.
“Seniors!” Britton yelled. “You worked your whole life for this moment. I want you to play with everything you have, because I know I would tonight!”
Oviedo played the game of its life. Down 35-10 in the first half, Oviedo came back to beat Lake Brantley 44-42 to clinch the district.
The players never gave up — just like Britton.
“Don’t give up. There is an end to this,” Britton says. “Even if you don’t see it, it’s definitely there. I believe that. I promise you, it’s there; you just have to keep fighting and looking for it. It’s going to come eventually.”