Scout.com national director of recruiting Brandon Huffman’s business relationships quickly became personal when news of his daughter’s cancer went public. Turns out the season of giving has been in effect for nearly six months.
AUBURN — Avery Huffman is a 7-year-old who will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She can’t move her right arm, and in the past five months has gained 35 pounds due to steroids.
The tumor in her brain also forces her to wear a patch over her right eye.
With her left eye, however, she has seen the absolute best in humanity.
On July 1, Avery’s father, Brandon, wrote the most difficult piece of his life. The national director of recruiting for scout.com, Huffman makes his living with words, but never ones this grave.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Washington, D.C.'s NFL team changed its racist mascot. Now, a push for change in Washington state schools. VIEW
- Armed robbery charges against Seahawks' Quinton Dunbar dropped due to 'insufficient evidence'
- 'You never set out to be the trailblazer': Kraken's Everett Fitzhugh embraces opportunity as NHL's first Black team broadcaster
- 2019 Puyallup High School grad dies after being hospitalized with COVID-19 complications
- Report: Seahawks turn attention away from Jadeveon Clowney and toward Everson Griffen and Clay Matthews
The longtime Auburn resident explained how Avery, 6 at the time, had a brain tumor and was found to have Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG). The cancer carries a 100 percent mortality rate.
In the span of a few days, Brandon and his wife, Amanda, went from thinking Avery had a lazy eye to wondering how much time she’d have left on earth. With radiation treatment, DIPG victims’ lives generally are extended between nine months and two years.
On top of that, only 200 cases of DIPG are diagnosed in America each year. But as cursed as the Huffmans felt at the time, they can’t help but feel blessed by what’s transpired since.
Brandon’s job — which consists of analyzing prep football players’ college potential and following their recruiting paths — entrenches him in the high-school and college-football communities. Players like him. Coaches trust him. His reputation is one of compassion in an otherwise cutthroat industry.
Perhaps that’s why, when news of Avery’s cancer went public, Brandon’s business relationships quickly became personal. Turns out the season of giving has been in effect for nearly six months now.
The day after Brandon announced Avery’s diagnosis, UCLA football coach Jim Mora offered a series of “Coach for a Day” packages where, for a $10,000 donation to the Huffman family, a Bruins fan and a guest could travel with the team for a game, ride first class on the plane, eat with the team, stay at the team hotel, be in the locker room and on the sideline and dress like a coach.
A couple of months later, Washington coach Chris Petersen honored the Huffman family by bringing them onto the field before the game, putting them up in a suite during the game and allowing Avery to hang out with Dubs — the official live mascot of the Huskies.
It didn’t stop there.
The Auburn Riverside High football team dedicated its season to Avery, and according to coach Bryant Thomas, players often would ask, “What would Avery do?” during trying moments in practices or games.
Meanwhile, famed quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson had a connection to Kristen Bell, who played Anna in “Frozen” — Avery’s favorite movie. One morning, Avery got an email with a video message from Bell.
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has called the Huffmans. Former UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, too. Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin visited Avery’s school — and whether it has been a day at Disneyland or a night at “The Nutcracker,” there has been no shortage of treats for the 7-year-old who won’t stop smiling.
But that hasn’t stopped her parents from crying.
If history is any indication, this probably will be Avery’s last Christmas. Brandon took her and her three siblings to see Santa on Wednesday, and St. Nick made sure to read every item on her list back to her.
She loved that. Just like everyone seems to love her. Nothing has been so evident since this whole nightmare began.
Before Avery’s diagnosis, Brandon’s faith in his fellow man had been shaken. He would see fan bases wish death upon athletes who de-committed from schools and shake his head disgust. But these past few months have provided a glimmer of light amid the ultimate darkness.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Brandon said. “It has restored my faith in humanity.”
The Huffman family never asked for a dime for medical expenses, but when a friend launched a campaign on gofundme.com, Brandon anticipated there might be between $10,000 and $15,000 in donations. So far, there has been more than $250,000. If you would like to contribute, you can log on to Avery’s CaringBridge site at talbertfamilyfoundation.org/pages/AveryH.html.
Sports gets a bad rap sometimes, and maybe it’s well-deserved. It’s tough to go a day without reading about a cheater, whiner or woman beater. But since July 1, the sports world has surrounded the Huffmans and refused to let them walk this path alone.
It’s hard not to get emotional when you think about the cancer in Avery’s brain. Same is true when you think about the kindness in people’s hearts.