DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – It was the first Friday of the 2021 high school football season in North Carolina. The stands were packed, the stadium was bustling, and the footballs were ready to go.
But inside the North Davidson locker room, minutes before kickoff against Reagan, all the noise was canceled out except for the voice of head coach Brian Flynn.
“He had one dream or one goal at the end of the day. Yes, it was to beat cancer and get through this, but he wanted to suit up with you guys again,” Flynn emphasized in his pre-game locker room speech, referencing Gavin Hill. “That’s what he wanted the chance to do.”
Some didn’t know if Gavin would ever be in this room. or in a Black Knights uniform again.
“Seven, eight rounds of chemo. Immunotherapy. Radiation,” Flynn continued.
“Where were you at this morning?” he asked Gavin.
“Radiation,” Gavin responded.
“Radiation,” Flynn repeated. “5:15 in the morning.”
Gavin spent his summer in and out of treatments after battling his second round of neuroblastoma — all with the determination to suit up as the starting quarterback once again.
“The will to fight,” Flynn said of Gavin. “Do it for each other. Do it for that young man right there. Let’s do it for these Black Knights, let’s go right here.”
The Black Knights huddled together before running out on the field. It was Gavin’s first time back, fully suited, since he found out his cancer had returned.
“It means a lot for everybody just to see me come back out here,” he said.
A comeback from a major setback.
“Getting home from chemo, being in the hospital six days a week and going to the gym, getting on the elliptical and doing whatever I had to do just to keep my body moving and healthy,” Gavin described of his journey back to the field.
Everything he did paid off when his doctors told him he was cleared to start the season.
Tony Hill, Gavin’s dad, remembers clearly what it was like when the doctor gave him the green light.
“He said, ‘Gav, I’m going to let you play. We’re going to get that port taken out,'” Tony recalled. “It was a big sigh of relief knowing how bad Gavin wants it.”
And all of a sudden it was more than just a football game. Gavin was thankful just to take part in the team’s pre-game ritual of plucking the orange-dyed grass in the center of the field.
“That’s just a great feeling,” Gavin said. “It’s a blessing in itself.”
“The amazing supporting cast that was up in the stands with us was cool,” Tony added. “To see the smiles on their faces as well, because they’ve been praying as hard as anybody else. To have that satisfaction of seeing him step foot on this field again has been a tremendous blessing.”
Flynn, too, said he was inspired watching Gavin practice. “He was with us in the spring a lot of the times, but actually warming up and throwing — that’s when I was like whoa man, this is cool.
It’s a journey of triumph that’s only just beginning for Gavin. As he enters his eighth round of chemotherapy, he continues defying the odds and beating cancer in more ways than one.
“He proved to everybody that he can do it and he’s been like that since he was 5 years old,” Tony summarized. “He’s just been one of those kids.”
Reagan defeated North Davidson, 41-19, but the game was still a win for Gavin.