RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - ""Bailey's story is remarkable. At nine months old they told his parents he wasn't gonna live through the night and he did," said Nevada offensive coordinator Matt Mumme.
The mantra for the Nevada football team this year is grit. And perhaps no one embodies that more than Bailey Johnson. The 18-year-old joined the Wolf Pack this season as an assistant quarterbacks coach, but by the age of 5, Bailey was already a four time neuroblastoma cancer survivor.
"This is all I really know. Growing up I've just been in hospitals a lot and just my way out of it has been sports," said Bailey Johnson.
When Bailey was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at nine months old he had a tumor on his left skull, a tumor behind his right eye and the primary tumor in his chest was compressing his spine. He also had hundreds of tumors in his liver, a tumor on his left shin and full bone marrow involvement. Yet, he defied the odds.
"Everyone goes through their own thing. I'm sure many kids on this team who have gone through maybe not as bad as I have, but they all have their own story and so everyone's story inspires someone differently, so I'm gonna try to do my part and inspire as much as I can," said Bailey.
Bailey also had 22 screws and two titanium rods placed in his spine from scoliosis and kyphosis, which resulted from radiation his freshman year of high school. Nine months later, he had three lung surgeries from a pneumothorax that was caused when his spine was straightened.
"Just an incredible example of perseverance and sticking to it and never giving up and we love having him around and he's got a great spirit," said Nevada head coach Jay Norvell.
Bailey grew up a Wolf Pack fan and it was a chance encounter with Nevada offensive coordinator Matt Mumme that landed him an opportunity with the team.
"My wife and I, Fayedra, went over to the Nevada children's cancer center and we kind of said we wanted to help out and if there was anything we could do and the head of it came over to me and said this is unbelievable because we've got a young man that's from South Tahoe High School and would just love to be a part of it and has always been a Wolf Pack fan," said Mumme.
"My grandmother used to work with the Children's cancer foundation here in Reno, so we're close with a lot of people there and I was hoping to get something like this. I was just fortunate enough to have Matt Mumme at the same time wanting someone like me to be part of the team," Bailey Johnson added.
And Bailey hopes others can use his story as inspiration.
"It's awesome to be able to share my story with others and have them realize that everyone goes through something and if you can battle through it you can pretty much get through anything," Johnson said.
"He's just an inspiration to all of us and to me and so it's an honor for me to be around him," Mumme added.