SARASOTA — Months after his poignant encounter with Tom Brady went viral, Noah Reeb found himself being moved to tears again by his middle-aged football hero.
The 10-year-old brain cancer conqueror broke down when he learned of Brady’s departure from football the morning of Feb. 1.
“I was bawling,” he said.
Forty days later, while watching TV and playing with Legos in his bedroom, Noah nearly lost it again.
“I was almost crying,” the Highland, Utah, fourth-grader said upon learning of Brady’s unretirement. “I was so happy.”
Fifteen months after a walnut-sized tumor was discovered in his brain, Noah is carefree and cancer-free, living a mostly typical prepubescent existence with his folks and two sisters. The only divergence from normalcy: when he’s recognized as the recipient of one of the 2021 NFL season’s most heartwarming gestures, delivered by Brady.
“Actually the Uber driver on the way here said, ‘I think I know who you are,’” Noah’s mom, Jacque, said Friday evening at the 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala at the Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re in Florida, but ... he’s very humble.”
The story has become embedded in Brady and Buccaneer lore. After four surgeries (including one to insert a medical port and another to remove it), Noah and his dad, James, attended the Bucs’ home game against the Bears on Oct. 24. Noah brought a homemade sign with the message: TOM BRADY HELPED ME BEAT BRAIN CANCER.
In the waning moments of Tampa Bay’s 38-3 romp, receiver Chris Godwin spotted the sign and pointed it out to Brady, prompting the seven-time Super Bowl champ to trot to the front row of the north end zone — where Noah and his dad were standing — and shake Noah’s hand before giving him a hat.
The encounter received national coverage, becoming the subject of an ESPN profile.
“I think it’s awesome to be, like, a symbol that people know,” said Noah, who had received a get-well Instagram message from Brady prior to the game. “It’s like, ‘Hey there’s Noah.’ Yeah, I think that’s pretty cool.”
Friday, he was among more than a dozen pediatric-cancer conquerors invited to the celebrity-studded gala as special guests of Vitale, whose goal was to raise $7 million for research by night’s end.
The guest list included 15-year-old Lakewood Ranch resident Weston Hermann, who has endured four bouts with brain cancer but on Friday was more concerned with the foot injury that has sidelined him from hockey season; and Calvary Christian alumnus Cole Eicher, celebrating eight years of being cancer-free after a brain-cancer diagnosis at age 12 in 2014.
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“You’re getting so much love from so many,” a sobbing Vitale told the group. “So many that believe in you, so many that care about you. I’ve seen them.”
Shane Jacobson, CEO of the V Foundation, told the audience that 20 percent of the 29-year-old organization’s funding has gone to pediatric-cancer research.
“The federal government funds, in their entire research portfolio, 4 percent,” he added. “Four cents on every dollar going to pediatric-cancer research. Four percent. We’re extraordinarily proud of the fact that we’ve made a decision to invest so significantly in all of you, and those around the country that expect more and expect better, and are hoping for solutions.”
Noah, in remission, said he feels “pretty good” these days, and currently plays flag football and baseball. Jacque said both of his recent checkups were clear.
“It’s a clean slate right now,” she said.
Even cleaner was Noah’s own prognosis, for his favorite player’s future.
“He kept telling me, ‘I think Tom will come back,’” Jacque said. “And I’m like, ‘Buddy, don’t get your hopes up, I don’t know.’
“He must know Tom better than I do.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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