When Austin Rehkow trots out to punt for the Buffalo Bills on August 10th as they open their preseason schedule at home versus the Minnesota Vikings, fans may notice an orange bracelet on the former Idaho Vandal’s right wrist.
On that bracelet are two ribbons and the letters “C-T-R”. CTR stands for Cameron Tyler Rehkow, the name of Austin’s 11 year old younger brother.
In April of 2016, Cameron was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive type of leukemia that progresses quickly.
This type of leukemia causes the body to have less white blood cells than normal, leaving those affected with an increased chance of frequent and severe infections, shortness of breath, and weakness.
His condition had gotten so bad before his diagnosis that a few more days would have meant that Cameron would have died.
Due to his diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment, Cameron was unable to see any of Austin’s 13 games his senior year because he was too sick. He was supposed to attend the Senior Game last season, but fell ill and was unable to attend.
That wouldn’t stop the Rehkows from including the youngest member of their family in the experience.
As they walked out to midfield before the game, the Rehkows face-timed Cameron in front of 11,000 people. There, Austin promised his younger brother “You will see me play again.”
It was a promise he didn’t know if he could keep.
But as Cameron battled through chemotherapy, Austin continued to battle as well in training camp, in order to fulfill his promise to his brother.
He also uses his fight to land a roster spot as a way to encourage Cameron on his worst days. To encourage him to keep fighting and never give up.
And when Austin is struggling with the pressure and stresses that come with being an NFL player, all he has to do is look down at his right wrist to calm himself down and put things in perspective.
“As I’m going through all this, I can look down and have a piece of him with me,” Austin said. “I get a calming sense just being able to have him with me.”
Through six days of camp, Austin has impressed his coaches and will be getting a long look as a kickoff specialist, a punter, and as a field goal kicker.
And on August 10th, barring any changes, Austin will be able to fulfill his promise, as Cameron will be at that first preseason game in Buffalo.
There the two can reconnect and continue to persevere, and again be able to act just like any other pair of brothers.