For Houston Texans star wide receiver John Metchie, the 2023-24 National Football League season could come to an end at this very moment, and the 23-year-old likely wouldn’t be bothered one bit.
Sure, missing out on the second half of the year and the chance to possibly suit up in some playoff football would hurt, but for this particular route runner, the day-to-day joys and rigours of the NFL season are nothing compared to the reward of the battle already won.
Back in July of 2022, the Brampton, Ontario product was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL) – a cancer within the blood and surrounding tissues that reduces the number of red and white blood cells within the body. According to recent scientific information, the disease affects roughly one in 250K people.
Metchie made the announcement public just months after being selected 44th overall by Houston in the second round of the NFL Draft:
“I am currently receiving great medical care, am in good spirits and I expect to make a recovery at a later point in time,” Metchie’s statement read. “As a result of this diagnosis, I will likely not be playing football this season. My main focus will be on my health and recovery. Thank you in advance for your support and well-wishes. I cannot wait to come back stronger than ever. God bless.”
No, the University of Alabama alum did not play in a single game for Houston in his rookie year, but was able to continue with his training to best prepare himself for a professional debut with the Texans in 2023.
“Quite frankly, it’s amazing what he’s done to this point,” Houston general manager Nick Caserio said prior to training camp this season. “He actually looks better now than he did when we drafted him in the spring. He’s improved his strength; he’s improved his lower body strength. His attitude has been great, even though he’s been dealing with a lot of things medically.”
The two-time Jon Cornish Award winner (awarded to the best Canadian football player within the NCAA) made his long-awaited NFL debut in Week 2 at home against the visiting Indianapolis Colts, where he hauled in his first pass from fellow rookie C.J. Stroud. He has since suited up in each game for the 3-3 Texans, to which he has 72 yards on six receptions.
Metchie’s journey back following his APL diagnosis was one of faith and family.
“My faith,” Metchie said when asked by reporters how he managed to get over what quickly became his biggest challenge in life. “My faith in God, and my mom and my brothers.”
He expanded in a sit-down conversation for the Texans’ official website:
“Faith and family were really the things that got me through it,” he said in that interview. “My loving family of my mom, my brothers, my closest friends and really the people at the hospital…my nurses and stuff, the people that I met there, the patients. All those people in that community kind of got me through it.”
The Alabama standout dug deeper in a one-on-one for AL.com, where he spoke of his diagnosis, immediate reaction to the news and the fears it instilled.
“I knew at that moment that God had a plan for me, and I was going to be alright,” Metchie said in conversation. “I wasn’t really worried about it. It was really about how my family would take it. Just being diagnosed and being told that and having to share the news with your family is something that’s a little bit tougher.”
For a then-21-year-old to be thrown into the fight of his life and only worry about the trouble that his disease may cause others is a mentality above and beyond that of even the most developed adults, let alone someone in the first “official” year of his grown-up life.
“I was blessed and very grateful to have one of the most curable forms of cancer,” Metchie said in a pre-season media availability. “As y’all see, I didn’t lose my hair and a lot of stuff like that. So, I was very grateful. I’m very blessed for that. But at the very beginning of it, when you’re diagnosed, a very tough part, it’s the most critical part. You can only rely on your faith in those situations when you’re faced with your own mortality.”
“You see what it is you really believe in and Who it is you really believe in. So, my faith in God is really what kept me comfortable in a belief that this was all for a greater purpose and a bigger reason.”
Texas clearly saw the player they wanted when trading away three draft picks to take Metchie at No. 44 last year, and now, they are most definitely seeing the person and true character of their second-round selection. Although kicking things off a year later than initially expected, Metchie’s story is still in its opening chapters.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen; you don’t know what the future has in store for you,” Metchie told NFL.com. “You, of course, hope that you can overcome it and play football, but I would say probably in the beginning stages, there might’ve been some doubt. But I’ve had a strong faith… I had a strong faith then, and I have a strong faith now.”