Dakota O’Neill ‘17 – Every year, a particular week in September sends ripples of excitement and hope through the small town of Romeo, nicknamed Watchdog week. This week focuses around conquering the struggles and strengthening the fight against cancer.

The color purple represents all types of cancers so not only does the crowd sport purple, but the players do as well. For Jackson Butcher ‘17, this color is especially meaningful. Every year a certain tradition regenerates where the players compete for a person in their life touched by this disease. A special jersey is worn in honor of the loved one with his or her name on their back. His junior year, Butcher will play for two people; his mom’s close friends Shelly Rizzo and Vicki Willey.

“[They both] contracted this disease, Vicki 7 years ago and Shelly just a few weeks back with on and off chemotherapy. [Vicki] lost her fight against ovarian cancer. Shelly… was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the cancer removed and is currently undergoing Chemo to fully rid of it,” Butcher said.

Prior to the game the players walk through a “tunnel of love” formed by the survivors and shake hands, hug, kiss and cry to kick off the first of many Watchdog traditions. This part of Watchdog conjures emotions for the crowd, players, Butcher and his loved ones.

“What the Watchdog football game means to me is my way showing Mrs. Vicki the love I have for her in heaven and the imprint she left in my heart. Also showing Mrs. Rizzo that her battle against cancer can be beat,” Butcher said.


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