A sea of Carolina blue filled the home stands at Monroe High School’s football stadium Friday night.
Kenyon Commins felt the love.
“There’s a lot for us to be thankful for,” the Ross football coach said. “In a difficult year — one we haven’t experienced in quite a bit of time — it really puts a lot of things in perspective with what is important.”
The Rams’ 3-6 record hasn’t been important. Winning hasn’t been important. Losing hasn’t been important.
Family is the only thing that’s been important for Commins, a husband and a father of three. Coaching has been a bonus.
“It’s more than football,” said the Dean of Students at Ross High School.
Kenley Commins, Kenyon’s daughter who turned 16 years old Sept. 27, has been fighting a vigorous battle against anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
But she’s been winning that battle.
Inspirational messages, support and financial donations from several area schools have been in large quantities, and the encouraging words of wisdom “Kick it Kenley” have rapidly circulated around social media for the last several months.
The Monroe community showed its support Friday during Ross’ 41-14 victory by wearing Kenley’s favorite color on the opposite side of the stadium. Kenley is a big North Carolina fan.
“What the Monroe community did was huge for us,” Commins said. “Coach (Bob) Mullins did a good job — those guys were in Carolina blue for my daughter. I want them to know that I appreciate that, and my family does.
“There are still some good things happening with humankind. That’s just so good to see.”
While Kenyon said it hasn’t been an easy path for Kenley, this week shed some light that things are going in the right direction.
“She got her last bag of chemo — round six — on Monday morning around 3 a.m.,” he said. “So that was a pretty emotional thing for my wife Monica and I. Talking on the phone at 3 a.m., knowing that that bag was going up, that was pretty cool.”
Kenley has only been out of the hospital 10 times since June, and there was about an 80-day stretch where Monica didn’t leave her side.
Kenley has made one appearance to a Ross football game this season. She was able to get through the first half of the home game against Wyoming on Aug. 18 — the season opener.
“It’s been tough. It’s been hard on us all,” Commins said. “But it’s to the point where you understand. One thing that my wife and I have done is take in a lot of pride. We never ask ‘Why?’ There’s never been pity. There’s never been a ‘Why us? Why now? Why her?’ When you get into that stuff, you lose sight of a lot of things.
“One thing that it’s done for us is that we learned how blessed we are with the life that we have and the time that we have with our kids and with people in general.
“I tell people that I don’t have time for soft people. I also don’t have time for hate. Life’s too short and too quick. There’s so many more things that matter. If you just keep getting mad over little, dumb stuff, it’s never going to help.”
Commins said the Ross community and the football program have been the biggest help. He specifically pointed a finger at senior running back Riley Caldwell.
“Gosh, man. He’s been so good to Kenley,” said an emotional Commins. “He’s been as good as any of those seniors. It’s helped out with our small senior class.”
“Whenever I see Kenley when she’s been out or we’re visiting her at Children’s in Cincinnati, I just have to give her a hug,” Caldwell said after scoring three touchdowns and rushing for a season-high 203 yards on Friday. “We’ve been close since my freshman year. The motive this year has definitely been playing for her.
“The wins and losses won’t determine what kind of team we are. We know we play our butts off every game and play as hard as we can every game for our community and our teammates — but it’s especially for her.”
Commins said the football season and Kenley’s progress have been “crazily timing up.”
“The playoffs are starting, and we’re hoping Kenley will be getting out of the hospital at the end of October,” Commins said. “It’s going to be pretty emotional here, I’m sure, within the next few weeks.”
Commins said Kenley’s final scan and bone tap is scheduled for Oct. 25.
“We will kind of figure out where we are with everything,” Commins said. “Her bone marrow scan the last one came back clear, which was absolutely huge.
“So we’re all going to keep on going. But if you’d put any measurement on wins or losses this season, this would be the biggest win.”
A win with a touch of Carolina blue.