By Krysten Call, Titans Online
NASHVILLE, Tenn.— The NFL's "A Crucial Catch" campaign came to Nashville when the Tennessee Titans honored local breast cancer survivors on Oct. 11 prior to their nationally-televised game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. In support of October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Titans and Saint Thomas Health assembled a variety of exciting activities, including hosting 12 local breast cancer survivors plus honoring Titans tight end Jared Cook's mother, Yulinda, as the honorary 12th Titan.
The group of breast cancer survivors had the chance to see LP Field from a completely different perspective that evening as they welcomed the Titans onto the field during player introductions.
Titans Owner K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. gave a special welcome to the ladies on the field prior to kickoff, mixing handshakes and hugs with Mrs. Cook and the 12 survivor guests. The ladies were thrilled to have the chance to meet and take some pictures with Mr. Adams while spending some time watching players prepare for the start of the game. The group was also surprised by Titans kicker Rob Bironas, who joined the ladies for a group photo before returning to his pre-game warm-up routine.
Moments before kickoff, Yulinda Cook showed her pride as a survivor by raising the team's pink 12th Titan flag in the ceremony, offering hope and support to many women who are fighting as she had fought against breast cancer. Mrs. Cook showed great emotion as the pink flag made it to the top of the flag pole.
"I was really blessed and I can stand here today and tell everyone it's not an easy journey, but I was able to do it and I was able to persevere through it," Mrs. Cook said. "I just want to tell anyone who's going through what I've been through that you can make it. You just have to be persistent and know that you can beat it and just have confidence in yourself and you'll be able to make it through it."
Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer also has a personal connection to breast cancer. His wife, Donna Palmer, was also one of the 12 survivors honored at the event.
"I've been to a lot of football games in my life, but this one is really special," Donna Palmer said to a Titans staff member. "Thank you so much for including me in this fantastic evening. I am really humbled by this."
When asked how she remained so positive during her treatment and recovery, Donna said "you just have to have a sense of humor to make it through something like this!"
After kickoff, the special guests made their way up to their seats to watch the Titans put on a great performance which led to a splendid win, defeating the Steelers 26-23 on a last-second game winning field goal by Bironas! Yes, the ladies agreed that it was good karma for Bironas to kick the winning points after coming to see them prior to kickoff!
From gloves to cleats, hats to towels, and even game balls with pink ribbon decals used on every play, the "Crucial Catch" ribbons were evident throughout the game. Titans' players and coaches wore pink equipment and apparel to support awareness and the importance of early testing and many of those items are being sold at www.nflauction.nfl.com/ with all proceeds from these items dedicated to the American Cancer Society.
Fans in attendance at LP field received complimentary pink rally towels, compliments of Saint Thomas Health and FUZE. In addition, the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority handed out pink ribbons to the first 23,000 ladies through the gates. Fans at LP field showed their support as they twirled their pink towels and wore their ribbons as they brought an energetic ambiance to the stadium.
Sandy Finley spoke about how much this event meant to her as a survivor of less than a year, saying that the experience was unbelievable.
"It was like nothing else I have ever experienced," Finley said. "We felt honored to be part of the Titans organization for the evening. It is a wonderful venue to bring attention to the cause of early detection of breast cancer. For me, as a survivor, it is very gratifying to see more acknowledgement of the disease and to just let women out there know there is a lot of support out there for them."
Finley's message to those still fighting breast cancer: "Be strong and don't give up hope. There is just so much support. No one has to go through this alone. So, remain hopeful."
The NFL's program is now in its fourth year and officially called "A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives." Partners for this awareness initiative are the NFL, its 32 member clubs, the NFL Players Association and the American Cancer Society. Fans may visit www.NFL.com/pink to learn more about the campaign, as well as important breast cancer detection information, prevention tips and how to participate in the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.