Football coach fights battles on, off the field

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Brianna Harmon

Sports Editor

For 44 years Danny Palmer has battled to win games on the football field, 11 of them spent as the head coach at Tyler Junior College.

But in 2013 Palmer began to battle at home when he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). CLL is a cancer that is formed in the white blood cells in adults and affects B cell lymphocytes, which originate in the bone marrow, develop in the lymph nodes, and normally fight infection by producing antibodies.

Palmer was diagnosed while recovering from a kidney disease that is completely in remission now.

“It was by accident, I was recovering from a kidney disease that is now completely in remission,” said Palmer. ”She noticed my white blood cell count was high all of a sudden. I was in the early stages of CLL. It never got the point where I was in danger but it did get to the point where I needed to get on chemo. I was always tired. When I was first diagnosed with it Dr. Richards said ‘coach by the time this thing gets a little higher with your white blood count we are going to have some stuff that we will just beat this thing up with.”

Palmer began regular chemo and after a month he switched to a tablet form of chemo called Imbruvica.

“Immediately within two months there was an injury surge because my white blood count was way up,” said Palmer. “My energy level was up it was unbelievable, even the players noticed it. It’s a miracle and I know God has a plan in it. The ball has to bounce your way in life and in coaching.”

Through the battling cancer Palmer has never stopped coaching and plans to coach as long as he can.

“I am going to coach as long as my wife wants me to, as long as my children want me to and my grandchildren,” said Palmer. “As long as I love practicing, that’s what I love about football is practice. I have really enjoyed the association I have had here with my assistant coaches the past 11 years. I take a lot of pride in knowing that maybe they learned something from me. I just love Tyler Junior College, it’s a sentimental journey.”

Palmer has nearly completed his battle with CLL and has had talks with his doctors about being in remission.

“Sometimes I go two or three days and not even think about it, and have a normal life,” said Palmer. “You have to stop and thank God too for that and your family. But what really keeps you going is being around the football players.”

Palmer is a Tyler native; he attended high school at John Tyler and attended school at TJC.

“The main thing is the sentimental journey that you grow up in your own home town and your life is now driving on the streets you grew up on,” said Palmer. “I can tell you every store, I can remember every football game, I can remember the starting lineups of the 1960 Rose Bowl team, I remember my favorite players, I even remember the great basketball team under Floyd Wagstaff.”

Not only has the football team and TJC made an impact on Palmer, but he has left a lasting impact on the players he has coached.

“Coach Palmer motivates us every day during practices,” said offensive linebacker Daqualyn Thomas. “No other guy has leukemia, you would think he would be down but he comes out there every day keeping that same energy and passion for the game. I’m glad and thankful he’s my coach”.

Defensive back Seth Glenn says that watching Palmer be strong through his struggles it has given him hope to get through his injury.

“It pushes me even more,” said Glenn. “This is the best team I have ever been on. He is the best coach I have ever had. He has a good heart. I know we are going to do big things for Coach Palmer.”

Glenn will never forget when Palmer made a trip to Houston to bring him to Tyler to show him the campus.

“That’s my man,” said Glenn. “When he recruited me he actually picked me and my brother up from my high school and drove us here. He drove all the way to Houston to come pick us up. at meant a lot to me for him to drive me around and show me everything. I committed on the spot.”

Glenn and many others on the team have a huge respect for Palmer and the commitments he has made to them.

“He is like a father gure to me,” said Glenn. “I really love him a lot. He is hard but he knows what he is talking about I love football and coach Palmer make it easy because he is always there and he is looking out all the time.”

At one point in every coach’s career they wonder if anything they say makes an impact including Palmer. He nds his justi cation when he sees his athletes succeed.

“You never know if you are a good coach or not,” said Palmer. “But, you have a good feeling about yourself as a coach when players you coached 20 years earlier bring their children by to see you or they give you a call or they want to hangout with you.”

The Apaches are currently ranked No. 9 in the nation after losing their rst game of the season to Navarro.

Navarro rallied from a 24-point de cit to upset the Apaches 37-26.
TJC is 5-1 on the season and 3-1 in conference.

The Apaches will head on the road to play No. 4 ranked Trinity Valley on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Trinity Valley is coming o a 56-29 win over New Mexico Military.
On Oct. 9 two Trinity Valley football players were killed in a head on collision with an 18-wheeler in the early morning as they were on the way back to campus.

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