Faith, Family, & Football

 

TEXAS A&M FRESHMAN FOOTBALL PLAYER COLTON BERGT USES HIS CANCER STORY AND FAITH IN GOD TO BUILD COMMUNITY AND STRIVE FOR A CAREER AS AN ONCOLOGIST

by ELLEN ORR

 
 photo by KALI RUSHING PHOTOGRAPHY

photo by KALI RUSHING PHOTOGRAPHY

A Texarkana resident since age six, Colton Bergt grew up on “a lot of land out in the country,” he said, noting that he “is actually the sixth generation to live on the land [his] family has.” This green environment enabled him to explore his outdoor passions, and throughout his childhood, he spent many hours hunting, riding four-wheelers, working in the yard, and playing sports—namely baseball and football. The best part of these activities? Enjoying them with his family. “I’m a family person,” Colton said. “I love being with them.”

This ethos of “family person” translates onto the field as well. “I love the team aspect of football,” he said. “I feel the need to be involved in a brotherhood of people who I can support and who can support me.”

While community is important for everybody, a strong support system has been particularly important to Colton, who relied heavily on his family and medical team as he battled cancer at age 12. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma days after completing the sixth grade, Colton fought the disease for six months, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Fortunately, he has been in remission for the last six years, but while he is healthy now, his cancer experience still informs his daily life—though in positive ways.

“The chemo made me really sick,” he said, “and my immune system was suppressed, so I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t see my friends, couldn’t really leave my house. I was disconnected from the world I’d lived in since I was born.” But now he uses his story to connect even more strongly with his community. “I feel like the whole [cancer] experience has helped me a lot in life,” he said. “It’s given me a platform to share my testimony and help people with things they’re facing and give them encouragement, which is something cool now that I get to do.”

Strong in his Christian faith, this is an outcome he had prayed for. “There wasn’t really a point where I thought I wouldn’t make it,” he remembered. “It was just about fighting through [the illness] and trusting God that He was going to save me and hopefully use me and my experience for something positive in the future.”

Grateful for his vitality, Colton hasn’t wasted any of the life he’s been given. Throughout high school at Liberty-Eylau, he worked hard to excel in athletics and academics alike. Four years of honor societies, community service, Student Council, and advanced classes—all on top of baseball, football, and powerlifting—led up to his graduation this past June, when he walked across the stage as the Class of 2018 Salutatorian.

 ^ Colton and one of his favorite nurses, Sarah, at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She would play Madden football with him and really brightened his stay during his chemo treatments.

^ Colton and one of his favorite nurses, Sarah, at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She would play Madden football with him and really brightened his stay during his chemo treatments.

 ^ His senior year playing for the Liberty-Eylau Leopards, Colton played starting center and made 1st team All- District as a center.

^ His senior year playing for the Liberty-Eylau Leopards, Colton played starting center and made 1st team All- District as a center.

“My parents drilled into me that academics were important,” he said. “I spent a lot of late nights studying extra, not only for school but also football plays. It was a lot to juggle, but I always tried to take care of myself and do the right things for my body so that I could handle all those different tasks and be successful.”

His long hours paid off: he was offered a position on the football team at Texas A&M, his dream school. “Almost my whole family has gone to A&M,” he said. “A&M was always in my heart. I was fortunate enough to receive a walk-on offer to work with the offensive line and as a long-snapper. I’ve always wanted to [go to school at A&M] and always wanted to play football in college, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“I’m so appreciative to my whole family, my friends, people who have pushed me to get to this level and go above and beyond,” he continued. “Not many people get to play Division 1 football, and especially not at the college they’ve wanted to go to since they were a kid.”

Colton is already in College Station, “working out every day and building the brotherhood with the guys on the team,” he said. “I’ve had a great time so far and only see it getting better.”

He’s begun his academic career already as well, having taken two summer classes before his freshman year has even begun. He is majoring in biology pre-medicine, with the goal of later attending medical school and pursuing a career as an oncologist.

“[When I was battling cancer,] I’d be [at the hospital] getting chemo for a week or two straight, and when I’d come back, some [of the other patients I’d seen before] hadn’t made it,” he recalled. “That realization made me want to dedicate my life to help other people and save other people and hopefully in the future find better solutions to treating cancer.”

At the end of the day, while he is endlessly grateful for his family, friends, doctors, coaches, and the work ethic instilled in him by his parents, Colton ultimately gives all of the credit to God. “God has played a huge part in my life, and I’m so thankful that He’s been with me through everything,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in God and everything He does, and I believe He has a plan for everybody.” His family and friends look forward to watching the rest of that plan unfold—in his communities, in the classroom, and on the field.