BY JEFF FALK
He’s number 82 in your Northern Lebanon program. But number one in Viking hearts.
That’s because Cory Weidner is all heart. All 5-1 and 145 pounds of him.
Weidner, a junior wide receiver and special teams player for the Northern Lebanon football team, plays football with his heart because that’s the way he lives his life. It is the only part of his body that cancer can never touch.
Weidner is in remission and has been cancer-free for years. But his battle with the most common type of leukemia, A.L.L., has profoundly affected his life.
“I try to do the best I can because I want to be good,” said Weidner. “I want to play the best I can. I don’t want it to be like I didn’t do anything in high school, like some kids. I want to be different. I want to make something of myself.”
Weidner was first diagnosed with leukemia when he was four years old. After battling it into remission, he was again diagnosed with the same cancer when he was in the third grade. Again, leukemia was no match for Weidner’s spirit.
In order to defeat it, Weidner had to endure a bone-marrow transplant, seemingly endless radiation treatments and months-long stays in the hospital. The leukemia also affected Weidner’s stature and stunted his growth.
“It was horrible,” said Weidner. “Being locked up in that hospital bed and having all that chemo going through me. And I slept a lot. I never want to go through that again. I just got tough and fought through it. That’s all you can do.”
“I just learned Cody had a choice of anything he wanted from the Make A Wish Foundation,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall. “His wish was a pizza party for the whole school. That’s the type of kid he is. You know someone, but you don’t really know him.”
Despite his size, Weidner doesn’t shy away from contact, either in practice or in games. A member of the Vikings’ kickoff coverage – or ‘bomb’ – squad, Weidner sacrifices his body to limit opponents’ field position.
“My role is to hit the people,” said Weidner. “Do the best I can and make plays. On the kickoff coverage I run down and hit the people. That’s what they tell me to do, so I do it.”
“One time he came to me and said, ‘I’m going to miss practice during camp,'” said Wall. “He had a doctor’s appointment and he was almost apologetic. I said, ‘relax. What you’ve been through in life pales in comparison’.
“He’s always there,” Wall continued. “He’s willing to jump in. He gives you 100 precent all the time. He’s going to get a varsity letter.”
Weidner is an inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with. He’s treated by his teammates the same way he treats them.
“They treat me pretty nice,” said Weidner of his teammates. “They treat me with respect. Some of them are my friends. They treat me like one of the players. I’m happy.
“I just love the sport,” Weidner added. “I like how you can take all the frustation out and hit people. I just like the players.”
“They don’t look at him as an inspiration,” said Wall of Weidner. “He’s just one of the guys. He doesn’t want any special treatment. He makes me appreciate the fact that I have three healthy children. I can’t imagine what his parents have been through.”
Weidner was recently nominated for the national High School Football Rudy Award – an honor named for former Notre Dame under-sized player Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger. The award highlights character, courage, contribution and committment of its nominees.
“I kind of understand how I can be an inspiration, and kind of not,” said Weidner. “Other people have told me that. When I hear that it makes me very proud of myself.
“I try to be a hard worker, like with my school work and in the class room,” Weidner continued. “With weight lifting, I do pretty good. I don’t let myself fail. I lift myself up.”
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