With support of teammates, Freeport QB Garrett King ready to overcome cancer diagnosis

Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 6:32 PM

Garrett King was at the top of his game and eager to take over the quarterback reins for the Freeport football team.

The 6-foot-1 junior was gearing up for the start of the season, but a trip to his doctor Aug. 31 for a routine yearly physical yielded some distressing news.

King’s doctor noticed an abnormality during the checkup and sent King for additional tests at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The concern was confirmed, as he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

All of a sudden, his junior season and the promise it held was over. Treatment will prevent him from returning to the field this fall.

“It was tough news to take,” King said. “To be honest, I was much more upset about not being able to play football with my teammates than I was scared about actually having cancer. That’s how much they mean to me.”

A new battle has begun. With support of family, friends, teammates, coaches and the community, King vows it’s a battle he’s ready to win.

“The support has been absolutely unreal,” King said. “My teammates were some of the first people I let know. I was swarmed by them. I know that anything I need, they will be there for me. They are my brothers.

“There are so many people who text me and check up on me every day. Everybody has been insanely supportive with what I am going through. I am definitely not going through this alone.”

King’s doctors recommended he have surgery immediately.

With Freeport’s scrimmage against rival Knoch a couple of days later, Garrett and his father, Shawn, requested the surgery be delayed a week so he could suit up one time and play with his teammates against the Knights.

“The doctor gave it the OK,” Garrett said. “He said one week would make no difference in the severity of it or anything like that.

“It was pretty emotional, but it was a good experience. The whole team played well.”

A group of 25 to 30 family members were permitted to attend the scrimmage and watch King play.

“It was super the way everyone stepped up to give those moments to our family,” Shawn King said.

“It was bittersweet knowing that every down he played was one down closer to the end of his season.”

Knoch players and coaches presented King a signed football, an expression of support that went beyond the battles on the field between the neighboring rivals.

“It’s amazing that with what he is going through that Garrett is dedicated to wanting to be there and be a leader for his teammates,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said.

“He’s a very resilient kid. I know he will get better, and he will be back on the field next year.”

King had surgery Thursday afternoon at Children’s Hospital, and he was home resting later in the day.

Now, Garrett will begin a process of additional treatment in the coming weeks as he hopes to overcome the cancer that has taken his season.

“He will be sore for a couple of days,” Shawn King said.

Paying heed to advice from his doctors and family members, King didn’t attend Friday’s game with Deer Lakes.

Instead, he watched a live stream of the contest with family members.

Shawn King attended the game to support Garrett’s younger brother, freshman player Taylor King.

“I was able to talk to the coaches, support the team and let them know we are still around, even if Garrett isn’t right now,” Shawn King said.

“We want the team to know we are behind them all the way.”

Garrett’s Yellowjackets teammates missed his presence Friday but wished him well as he rested at home. They wore “King Strong” T-shirts for pregame warmups and took the field holding King’s helmet high for inspiration.

Several of them visited King after the game and celebrated together the 29-7 victory over rival Deer Lakes.

“That really hit us hard when he told us the news and said he wouldn’t be able to play this year,” junior Vinnie Clark said.

“It was his first year to start at quarterback, and he worked so hard for it. He worked his butt off all summer to get ready for the season. He’s always been a fighter, and this will be no different. He’s tough, and he’ll get through it.”

King was on junior Cole Charlton’s mind as he played the game. Charlton intercepted two passes, taking the first one 45 yards for a touchdown.

“He called me after the surgery, and we talked a little bit about how he was doing,” Charlton said. “We’re there to support him, no matter what he goes through.”

Garrett and his family said they expected to receive many visitors this weekend.

“We’ve been overwhelmed, in a good way, with the generosity and kindness of so many people dropping off food and just asking us if there is anything they can do,” Shawn King said.

“We appreciate it all.”

Garrett King said even though he won’t be able to play this season, he still plans to be a supportive presence, whenever possible, at practices and games.

“Any time I can be there, I want to do what I can to help (sophomore quarterback Zach Clark) fill the role, and also help the younger kids,” he said.

Through a friend of the family, Pirates star pitcher Jameson Taillon heard about what Garrett was beginning to go through and sent him a video message talking about his own cancer journey and offering words of encouragement.

Taillon received a testicular cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2017, and after surgery, treatment and recovery, he returned to pitch for the Pirates that summer.

“We were just overwhelmed by that, to have someone like Jameson take the time to reach out to Garrett,” Shawn King said. “It was cool to have it come from another athlete who could relate. Garrett was kind of star struck that Jameson even knew his name.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.


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