HOUSTON — Texans rookie wide receiver John Metchie III has been diagnosed with leukemia, and he expects to miss his rookie season while focusing on his treatment and recovery. He was officially placed on the non-football illness list Sunday.
John Metchie III diagnosed with leukemia
Metchie made the announcement in a statement Sunday through the Texans.
“Recently, I was diagnosed with APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia), the most curable form of Leukemia,” Metchie said. “I am currently receiving great medical care, am in good spirits, and I expect to make a recovery at a later point in time.
“As a result of this diagnosis, I will likely not be playing football this season. My main focus will be on my health and recovery. Thank you in advance for your support and well-wishes. I cannot wait to come back stronger than ever. God bless.”
Facts about APL
According to medical journals, APL is a “unique subtype of Acute Myeloid Leukemia with cells in the bone marrow that produce blood cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets) that do not develop and function normally. APL begins with one or more acquired changes (mutations) to the DNA of a single blood-forming cell. APL cells have a very specific abnormality that involves chromosomes 15 and 17, leading to the formation of an abnormal fusion gene PML/RARα. This mutated gene causes many of the features of the disease.”
A common symptom of APL is bleeding due to reduced numbers of platelets and deficiencies in clotting factors. That symptom can be life-threatening and has to be managed by medical supervision to prevent complications and treat the disease.
A common treatment for APL is a highly successful drug called ATRA (all-trans retinoic acid) to target the chromosomal abnormality. Because of advances in treatment, cure rates of 90% have been reported from medical centers specializing in APL treatment.
Deeper perspective from former Texans safety Andre Hal, a Lymphoma survivor
Former Texans starting safety Andre Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2018 at age 25. When his cancer went into remission after undergoing treatment, Hal returned that season to play in eight games and intercepted three passes.
Retired since 2019, Hal provided his perspective on the road ahead for Metchie.
“You have to stay focused on being positive, staying positive, and keeping your family around,” Hal said in a telephone interview. “I would tell him to eat real healthy, stay focused, and stay clear on his mission. Pray a lot. I would definitely talk to him; kind of went through the same thing. I know where he’s at right now. You’ve got to go for it head-first; go at it. He’s going at it right now.”
Metchie has had an outpouring of support from the Texans.
“We wish you a quick and easy recovery, John!” Texans team president Greg Grissom wrote on social media. “H-Town is behind you!”
“Prayers up man lil bro,” Texans cornerback Steven Nelson wrote on Instagram.
“You got this brother,” Texans defensive end Ogbo Okoronwko wrote.
“Small thing to a giant,” Texans linebacker Tae Davis wrote after the news was announced. “You got this bro.”
“His story is gonna be legendary,” Texans tight end Brevin Jordan wrote.
Alabama coach Nick Saban issued a statement about Metchie’s diagnosis was announced.
“John has overcome every challenge placed in front of him in his life with toughness and determination, and we are behind him every step of the way in his fight against Leukemia,” Saban wrote. “It’s a blessing that he is in a city known for great care and with an organization, in the Houston Texans, who will be with him throughout this journey. Our thoughts and prayers will remain with him throughout this battle.”
Metchie was already dealing with ACL recovery
Prior to receiving this serious medical prognosis, Metchie had been recovering well and making progress from a torn ACL suffered during his final season at Alabama in the SEC Championship. He hadn’t been cleared yet for football activities, but football will now obviously take a back seat to his personal health situation.
“I talked about us initially just taking everybody through a certain amount of tests to see exactly where they are,” Texans head coach Lovie Smith said this spring regarding Metchie’s knee recovery. “We’re in the process of seeing exactly when John would be ready to go. Eventually, he will be ready to go. There’s a lot that he can do before that. He’s not 100% yet, but in time he will be.
“I don’t have that timetable set yet, but in the upcoming weeks, we’ll be able to tell that a little bit more. For us, he is going to play this year. It’s all, as much as anything, about the mental preparation, them catching up, getting in the playbook. You’d be surprised the amount of things we ask of young people and what they have to get down.”
A former four-star recruit, Metchie was cleared to play football after being diagnosed with a slightly enlarged heart in high school.
Outlook had been positive for Metchie’s knee
The Texans drafted Metchie in the second round with the 44th overall selection after trading a third-round and two fourth-round picks. He had previously emphasized he would be fully ready for all activities at training camp.
“As far as the recovery, I will be good to play football in July. I will be good to go, no training wheels,” Metchie said during the draft. “I have been running already for the last couple of months. Cutting, jumping, doing all those types of things. When I say I will be ready to go in July, it’s full-go football.”
Metchie was a projected first-round draft pick prior to the ACL injury. He caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns last season.”It’s an honor,” Metchie said of becoming the latest Alabama wide receiver to be drafted. “It’s the standard for Alabama football. It’s an honor to finally become one of the guys.”
Texans called Metchie’s toughness ‘exceptional’
After maneuvering to draft Metchie, Texans general manager Nick Caserio praised him heavily. Caserio also downplayed his timetable for getting on the field and being fully cleared to play.
“His story is probably as unique as anybody in the draft, very worldly. I mean, this kid is an awesome kid, very smart, very studious, tough as nails,” Caserio said. “Some of the things that he did at Alabama and some of the things he endured and played with, just no normal people would do it. This guy’s level of toughness is exceptional. He was a really, really productive player for them and has some position versatility. I know there’s questions. When is he going to be ready? When is he going to be available?
“I wouldn’t put too much stock in what he said. I think when he is ready, he is ready. Whenever that is, it is. We’re not going to rush or push him. When he is ready and physically able, we feel that it’s the right thing to do, then he will be on the field. Until then he will do everything he can to get himself to that point. I certainly wouldn’t put any timetable on it or any expectation on it. When he is ready, he will be ready, but another player that I would say we like probably as much as any football player in the draft. When you watch him play, he plays a receiver with a mindset mentality that I would say is a little bit different.”