Upon entering high school, Rashawn (Ray) King was a promising two-sport athlete in both football and basketball with college prospects and varsity letters. Then suddenly on June 14th, 2010, following complaints of sluggishness, weakness and unexplained pains, Ray went in for a checkup. It was revealed that he had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Ray was immediately checked into the University of North Carolina hospital, where he spent five weeks undergoing chemotherapy, spinal taps, and kidney dialysis.
Valentino, Ray’s brother said of that difficult time, “I watched my brother go from 189 to 130 pounds in a matter of 3 or 4 months. I thought my brother was leaving me.” Ray never wavered in his resolve to beat cancer, and to get back out onto the field. Even while he was in the hospital undergoing painful treatments, he would inquire about the other players and how the team was doing. Football was never far from his mind.
As word spread about Ray’s challenge, the community, especially the student body at Ray’s school, responded with gusto. They created the slogan “Pray for Ray” which would be called out at sporting events to rally the crowd and team. “His courageous spirit inspired us. Imagine the sight of 1,800 students holding hands in support of one student who needed them. That is the spirit Ray brought to us,” said Ray’s Principal, John Williams. When he could, Ray would attend football and basketball games and practices to show solidarity with his teammates. Just one year after his initial diagnosis, Ray was cleared for full contact play. The battle cry for the crowd was altered from “Pray for Ray” to “Play with Ray!” “I get chills and goose bumps just thinking about it,” said Ray’s football Coach Sean Crocker. “Ray still has over two years of treatments ahead of him but he still inspires our students when he makes a big play or run.”