Fri, 27 Nov 2020

"He's My Angel Forever"

Seahawks
18 Sep 2020, 20:50 GMT+10

With the Seahawks hosting the Patriots in an empty CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, Pete Carroll suggested that maybe fans could "go out on their front steps and start screaming, yell out of their windows."

Most of those screams will no doubt take place in the Pacific Northwest, but every time the Seahawks make a big play on Sunday, the next loudest place in the country might be the San Antonio suburb of Converse, Texas.

In Converse, televisions will be tuned to Sunday Night Football to cheer on the Seahawks not just because Judson High School grads Tre Flowers and Alton Robinson are both representing the area at the NFL level, but also for another very significant reason.

The Seahawks were Bryce Wisdom's team.

Wisdom, who passed away in July due to kidney cancer, was, for reasons his parents can't quite explain, as big of a Seahawks fan as you'd find in Texas or anywhere else. Players like Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor made Wisdom a Seahawks fan, then Seattle selecting Flowers, who like Wisdom was a Judson High School defensive back, only strengthened that connection.

"He loved that team," said Diana Wisdom, Bryce's mom. "We even buried him with his Seahawks blanket in the casket."

In addition to being a Seahawks fan, Bryce was also a huge Jamal Adams fan thanks to a connection through the University of Texas at San Antonio. Frank Wilson was the head coach at UTSA from 2016-2019 and recruited Bryce's brother, Rashad, and coached him for one season. Before taking that job, however, Wilson was the recruiting coordinator and an assistant coach at LSU while Adams was there, and knowing that Bryce was also an aspiring defensive back like his brothers-Sean, now 31, played at the University of Houston-Wilson connected Bryce with the All-Pro safety.

As Bryce's health deteriorated in late July, his favorite team made a huge move, acquiring not just an All-Pro safety, but one of Bryce's favorite players. Sean, the oldest of four Wisdom boys, saw the news and made sure his brother knew about it.

"This was the day before he passed, Sean saw it on the internet and he screen-shot it and sent it to me, and Bryce was in and out of consciousness at this time," Diana Wisdom said. "I tried to shake him and wake him up like, 'Bryce, look, Jamal is on the Seahawks!' And he looked at me with this big smile and gave me a thumbs up, then kind of went back out. So that was everything for him. He loves Jamal."

When Diana and Richard Wisdom knew that their son's time was limited and began letting people close to them know, Wilson called Diana to ask if Bryce was awake and said, "Make sure he answers his phone. Jamal's going to call him soon."

"It was awesome," Richard Wisdom said of Adams' FaceTime call to Bryce on the day he died. "It was somebody putting a smile on Bryce's face. We knew at that time that time was limited. It was just awesome to see him talking to Jamal."

Said Diana Wisdom, "Jamal was amazing. Bryce was kind of in and out of consciousness-he knew what was going on, but he wasn't as talkative as he normally was, because he was in pain. There was just a lot going on, but Jamal was so excited, he carried the conversation. It was just so nice to see. Honestly, Bryce smiled all the way to the very end. He wasn't sad. He knew his time was limited, I had to let him know that most likely it would be later that night. He was very much aware of what was going on, and he just soaked it all in. All the love and support from us and others that he had the chance to speak to. It was an amazing day. As sad as you may think it was, we were so privileged and blessed to be able to be there with him to the very end, and then I was able to connect with certain people that meant a lot to him. Jamal was just the cherry on top."

Tre Flowers chose to represent #BryceStrong for the NFL's 'My Cause My Cleats' program during Week 14 of the 2019 season.

Both Adams and Flowers have dedicated their 2020 season to Wisdom, and Flowers also showed his support for Wisdom last year by putting "Bryce Strong" and a picture of Bryce on his shoes for the Seahawks "My Cause, My Cleats" game. Not long after joining the Seahawks and making that last call to Bryce, Adams reflected on the power of that moment.

"I'm getting emotional about it because it is very tough," Adams said. "He told me that he wanted to meet me and he wanted to say kind of his last words wish me luck. Hearing that, it broke me down, I broke down in the car... That really touched me, man, because during his last day of suffering going through that and fighting, he wanted to meet me. I didn't take that light, man, it hit home. I have nothing but love and respect for his family to reach out and make his make his dream come true, make his wish come true. I told him that I'm going to dedicate this season to him, and I told him that I'm always going to be thinking about him, and that I was excited to be a Seattle Seahawk. I told him I loved him and I told him that I'm always thinking about him."

Growing up in Converse and attending Judson, Flowers knew the Wisdom family long before Bryce got sick-Bryce and younger brother Myles were regulars at Flowers' high school games-and was a big supporter of Bryce throughout his fight with cancer. The two exchanged jerseys, and Flowers also helped arrange for Bryce to get a signed Russell Wilson jersey. In April, Flowers was part of a parade of cars that went by the Wisdom house to celebrate Bryce's 17th birthday. Flowers was still too emotional to talk about Bryce soon after his death, but eventually was asked about Bryce on a video call with reporters prior to the start of the season.

"I've still got his messages in my phone," Flowers said. "I was talking to him when he went to the hospital, then they met before his death, I talked to him a little bit before he passed. He meant the world to me, really. I met him late, but I would always see him at games when I was younger, him and his younger brother. I would just always see him with a smile on his face, and with everything going through his life, it was crazy. I couldn't imagine what he was going through, but he always had a smile, and he always was happy. He really changed my life. The Year 3 y'all see is definitely because of him; I can't overthink things, seeing the kid go through that."

Choking up, Flowers added, "He's my angel forever, for real."

That omnipresent smile Flowers mentioned was just one of Bryce's many memorable traits.

"He was very humble, very funny, and he just loved life," Richard Wisdom said. "He marched to his own drum, always kept a smile on his face, from almost when he came out of the womb. He was very athletic. He just loved everybody. You'd never hear him say, 'Oh, I don't like this person.' He was just different. Very humble and he pretty much loved everybody."

Throughout Bryce's cancer battle and after his death, the outpouring of support has come from all over the country and the football community, including the Seahawks. In addition to Adams' and Flowers' support, Bryce had also formed a bond with Hall of Fame Seahawks safety Kenny Easley, with Easley calling on occasion to check in on Bryce. Easley also sent Bryce a signed Hall of Fame helmet, while former Seahawks center Justin Britt sent the cleats he wore in Super Bowl XLIX. All of that support and love has helped carry the Wisdom family through such a heartbreaking loss.

"It's unbelievably humbling," Diana Wisdom said. "It's not something we expected, but it definitely has been helpful. It was helpful during the process of going through all of this with Bryce and the fight and the back and forth with the recurrence of his cancer. But the support, the prayers, the outpouring of people just wanting to jump in and do something to help was just amazing. Honestly, that's what's gotten us through now with him being gone. We can feel it, that's what's getting us up each day and making us want to continue to fight, and get some funding and research not just for pediatric cancer, but adolescent cancer. It is so different than what the pediatrics or adults, and that is what our fight is now. We want to bring more awareness to adolescent cancer, young adults that are in Bryce's age group."

They're still working through the details, but the Wisdom family plans on honoring Bryce by starting the Bryce Strong Foundation, which will provide funding for and awareness about adolescent cancer. In the meantime, Bryce's legacy lives on through the Seahawks players who are dedicating the season to him, through his three brothers, including Rashad, who had a pick-six in UTSA's season opener, and through his parents, who remain impossibly positive in the face of such an unimaginable loss.

Showing that tragedy hasn't robbed her of her sense of humor, Diana Wisdom explained that all four of her boys are or were defensive backs, adding, "I call myself the real DBU. All my sons played DB. I was the defensive back uterus."

Sean played at Houston, Rashad is a sophomore at UTSA, Myles, 11, looks to be following in their footsteps, and while he was still the coach at UTSA, Wilson told Bryce there would always be a spot for him there, then when Jeff Traylor took over that program, he showed up at Bryce's birthday parade to present him with a jersey and a scholarship offer.

Bryce didn't get to take Traylor up on that offer, but he has a lot of people playing for him this year, from Rashad and his teammates at UTSA, to a Judson High grad turned NFL starter in Tre Flowers, to an All-Pro defensive back in Adams who was one of the last people lucky enough to see Bryce's unforgettable smile.

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