DENVER (AP) — As far as defender Kortne Ford can recall, his mom has never missed a home soccer game.
Not with his youth teams when Laurie Ford was going through treatments for breast cancer. Not in high school. Not when he played at the University of Denver. Not now, with him a homegrown player for the Colorado Rapids and his mother dealing with the return of a disease that’s spread to her bones.
The two of them leaning on each other— it’s been that way since they moved to Colorado years ago for a fresh start. His teammates are assisting his mom, too, by auctioning their jerseys after the Fourth of July game. Same with the fans, who cheered for her in the 24th minute — Ford’s number — of a recent match.
“The support, it’s just incredible,” said the 21-year-old Ford, who has “Mom” tattooed on his chest inside a breast-cancer symbol. “They gave her a year to live in February. We’re trying to drag that out as long as possible.”
The mother and son moved from Olathe, Kansas, to Greeley, Colorado, when Ford was 12 to escape a tough family situation. She got a job as a math teacher and he directed his passion even more into soccer, joining a local club team and then one in Denver.
His mom would drive him to practice — a round trip that could take 2 ½ hours. She did this even as she went through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer around 2009. She did this even after a procedure that required 320-some stitches.
“She’s been huge about explaining to me how you have to know when to tune things out and focus on the things you need to focus on while you’re on the field, so you can perform to the best of your ability,” Ford said. “Sometimes, it’s difficult.”
In 2012, Ford joined the Rapids Academy, which is part of a nationwide youth initiative organized by the U.S. Soccer Federation to develop some of the country’s top players. He played on their under-16 and under-18 squads.
He chose Denver for college because he felt the Pioneers were on the verge of something special. He was right, too, as the team made it to the national semifinals last season with Ford anchoring the back line. Ford skipped his senior season and signed a homegrown contract with Colorado on Jan. 6.
About a month later, he was at training camp with the Rapids, when his mom called: Her cancer was back and had spread to her bones. A few weeks later, he said doctors told them it was terminal.
“That’s when it all hit,” Ford said.
This meant the world to him: She was in the stands when he made his professional debut at Sporting Kansas City on April 9. The Rapids fans also showed their support for his mom on May 5 by standing and applauding for 60 seconds. He clapped along from the sideline.
“There are really no words to describe it,” he said.
Or this: Scoring his first MLS goal in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on May 27. After the game, he headed to the stands to embrace his mom.
“I told her, ‘That goal was for you,'” he said.
There’s a fund set up for her that’s raised more than $20,000 . To help even more, Ford’s teammate, Micheal Azira, suggested the idea of holding an auction for their game-worn jerseys after Tuesday’s game against Seattle. He got goalkeeper Tim Howard to assist in organizing the auction.
“You can’t do life alone,” Azira said on the Rapids’ team page. “He (Ford) being a part of our team means he is family, and no matter what, we try to help each other out.”
As a Mother’s Day tribute, Ford read a stirring letter in a video posted on Colorado’s website :
— “To the woman who seamlessly filled the shoes as both a mother and father for the majority of my life.”
— “To the woman who pushed me in the classroom, pushed me on the court, pushed me on the field, pushed me to be a better man.”
— “To the woman who encouraged me to ask for socks and underwear on each of my birthdays and promptly took me to the Salvation Army to donate them so I could experience the power of generosity.”
In closing, Ford added: “I cannot wait to stand by your side, support you, love you and to witness a miracle on the horizon when you beat this again.”
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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