Clearview offensive line coach Todd “Bubba” Engle had just returned from driving two of his senior linemen — Drew Hatcher and Billy Doughty — to Baldwin Wallace on a recruiting visit three weeks ago when he received a call that changed not only his life, but the lives of many others.
Engle, the uncle of Clearview junior quarterback Roger Engle, was diagnosed with leukemia. From that moment on, Engle has been at the Cleveland Clinic undergoing daily treatments to help him beat the disease.
The news of Engle’s illness sent a jolt through both his family and his football family. The Clippers rallied to beat Oberlin, 62-39, the week following the diagnosis, but dropped an 18-14 heartbreaker at home to Lutheran West last Friday.
But those performances don’t come close to how the team has responded off the field to help their popular coach, who is in his second year with the Clippers and also teaches physical education at Nord Middle School in the Amherst school system.
One of the first things Clippers coach Mike Collier did was give his players helmet decals that said “Brigade.” The team has taken to calling itself “Bubba’s Brigade,” in honor of Engle.
“We just kind of wanted to show our support, and it kind of grew from there,” Collier said. “We wanted to help the family out. It started as putting a sticker on our helmets as a way of saying we wanted to send our thoughts and prayers from the get-go. But it’s since grown into T-shirts and bands for wrists that the kids are selling to help raise funds for his medical expenses.
“Todd’s wife, Corrie, has put together a blog (Teambubba.blog.com) keeping everyone updated on his condition and his treatments each day. It’s just kind of taken off. The money we’ve raised is nothing substantial, but it’s growing every day.”
The movement has included students, football players and coaches from rival schools Clearview and Amherst. The students at Nord Middle School have designed an orange T-shirt that reads “Team Bubba,” while a member of the Engle family has designed a white T-shirt that reads, “I Wear Orange for Bubba” with the leukemia symbol below it. The proceeds from the shirts go toward Engle’s medical bills.
Last week, players from Clearview and Amherst got together for a group photo. In front of them was a banner that said, “Two Schools, One Team: Bubba’s Brigade.” They sent it to Engle as a way to cheer him up.
The players are also wearing orange bracelets that say “Team Bubba” and have started selling them on their own to help support their ailing coach.
A Facebook page — “Team Bubba — Support for Todd Engle’s Fight against Cancer,” — was started to help raise awareness for Engle’s treatment and for the fundraising opportunities that have started, along with information to purchase the shirts and bracelets.
“He taught me a lot and he’s a good person and he shows us the right way,” said Hatcher, a two-way starter at right tackle and defensive end. “It took a big toll on us losing him. It’s weird and feels different around practice. But at the same time, we know what the routine is. We know what he’d want from us and we just want to get it done every day in practice.
“It’s been pretty hard, especially on us linemen. But we all came together more as a family since we found out that Monday. I’d say mine and Billy’s relationship with him is stronger because we’re seniors and this is our second year with him. He’s taken us on college visits and he shows us how to get things done. We try to emulate his teachings to the younger guys and we try to do everything for him.”
Roger Engle, whose father Roger Engle II coaches Clearview’s secondary, said he’s been doing his best to keep focused on the task at hand.
“The support has been awesome from our community to (Amherst’s) community,” he said. “It’s a great honor to see everyone show their support. We love him and miss him and wish that he was out there with us, but we still have to play the game the best we can.
“I’ve just been trying to stay positive, since I’m one of the team’s leaders. We just want to play our game and stay positive at all times. The guys on this team are all close friends, and even though this is not the season we wanted, we’re sticking together and fighting till the end. I know that’s what my uncle would want.”
Roger Engle, who grew up in Amherst, said it was his parents’ idea to get the two teams together for the photo.
“We’ve seen how Clearview came together for Brad Anderson (raising money for his liver transplant), and once again, they’re showing why Clearview is a special community,” Roger Engle II said. “The signs, letters and cards my brother’s been getting, and the prayers and thoughts coming through with that have been great.
“He teaches in Amherst and that community has also done an amazing job with their support as well. It’s just amazing to see the two communities come together and how supportive they’ve been through the process. It’s amazing how many people have been impacted by my brother — he’s a great person and he’s a great coach. We’re very appreciative of all the support.”
The linemen all shaved their heads to support their coach when he started undergoing chemotherapy.
“We’ve been wearing orange in support of leukemia awareness,” Hatcher said. “We break our huddles with ‘Bubba.’ From T-shirts to sneakers to wristbands to shaving our heads, everything we do is for him.
“This just shows you that you have to appreciate every moment of your life and you can’t take anything for granted. He was a healthy man. Football, for a lot of people, shows how you can be a leader and your reputation on and off the field defines you as a person. But something like this shows you can’t take anything for granted, especially the people you know and are really close to.”
Collier said that Todd Engle still watches film from his hospital room and, thanks to Facetime through the iPad, still communicates with his players at practices.
“We let him know that we’re thinking of him on a day-to-day basis,” Collier said. “He comes from a great family and he has a lot of love and support from his immediate family, but with all the lives he’s touched, not just as a coach at Clearview but as a teacher at Amherst, there’s been an outgoing support from both schools.
“This news came out of nowhere, that’s for sure. It was kind of a punch in the gut to everyone. While we don’t like to make excuses, this has been a tough year for everyone. We’re doing our best to stay positive, keep the kids moving and improve.”
With one game left on the schedule at 9-0 Columbia tonight, the players would love nothing more than to get one more win for Coach Engle.
“The group we have is pretty close and we don’t want to give up,” Hatcher said. “Winning over Columbia would probably be the highlight of my year. They almost knocked us out of the playoffs last year when they beat us, so it would be great to return the favor. I know it would put a smile on Coach Engle’s face.
“I want to let him know we’re in full support, not just of him, but for anyone with leukemia. Anything can happen, so keep fighting for what you love.”